If you’re looking for the toughest Ultra4 off-road racing in the United States, look no further than the King of Hammers held in Johnson Valley California. There you can see some of the best Ultra4 drivers and vehicles battling it out through the harsh desert terrain that includes hardcore rock crawling sections as well as high-speed desert blasts. But for those of you that live across the pond, there’s another extreme off-road race that’s inspired by the legendary KOH and they call it the King of Wales.

The King of Wales is the 2nd of 4 rounds of racing in the Ultra4 European Championship. All four events follow the “King of” trend just like the King of Hammers, only the races take place in different locations. The first event back in May was called the King of France. And now that the King of Wales has come to an end, competitors will have a month off before the third round, King of Portugal, kicks off in September. The final round, King of Britain, will wrap up the season in mid-October and that’s when a champ will be crowned.

The King of Wales has been around since 2012 although it originally went by the name King of the Valleys. The race takes place at a reclaimed coal mine that’s been turned into a 1,600-acre motorsports complex called Walter’s Arena located in South Wales. The course can vary from 16.5-18km and the competitors will do multiple laps over the two-day event totaling approximately 148-180km depending on the class.

While it may be similar in name and principle to the hardcore King of Hammers, the racing is quite different mainly because of the terrain. The Johnson Valley is a desert so the terrain is dry, hot, and dusty along with harsh rocks and steep hill climbs. Where as in the South of Wales it’s constantly raining so the temperatures are a lot cooler, and rather than dealing with dust, competitors are literally up to their eyeballs in mud. And that’s on top of the harsh rocky terrain, tight woodland tracks, river beds, and fast rally tracks the drivers must navigate as quickly as possible.

Photo: drivetribe

Like the King of Hammers, the go to vehicle is the Ultra4 buggies that are almost the perfect mix of a purpose built rock crawler and a spec trophy truck. The suspension systems are massive, the engines are powerful, and the vehicles themselves are built like tanks to handle all kinds of abuse from the harsh terrain.

The European Ultra4 Championship has been a great thing for the off-road racing world because it’s bringing more people to the sport. For example, the 2017 King of Hammers earlier this year had the biggest turnout yet of both competitors and spectators. And race organizers are confident that trend will continue on into next years race. And while it’s not exactly cheap or easy for racers to compete in both the European Ultra4 Championship as well as the American series, there is still quite a bit of crossover.

The big winner of the King of Wales is Robert Butler and his unique independent front suspension (IFS) buggy that was built in collaboration with none other than Jimmy’s 4×4 out of the United States. They are the same shop that helped build “Brocky,” Vaughn Gittin Jr’s badass old school Bronco that’s been converted into an Ultra4 racer. The fact that Butler was able to take his IFS buggy to the winner’s circle is quite impressive because while it’s common to see that style of suspension on a Trophy Truck, that’s not the case on Ultra4 racers. The reason being, Trophy Trucks are only rear wheel drive so teams don’t need to worry about powering the front wheels. But Ultra4’s have to be four wheel drive in order to make it up and over the rock crawling sections. And IFS four-wheel drive systems aren’t nearly as strong and durable as the solid axle setups, at least not usually. So the fact that Jimmy’s has come up with a durable and reliable system could change the motorsport of Ultra4 racing altogether.

With 2 races still to go, Butler is currently in third place in the overall point standings and he hopes to be able to take his unique off-road machine to the top of the podium before the end of the season. You can follow the Ultra4 European Championship on their Facebook page to get current updates. But in the meantime, take a look at some of the highlights from the King of Wales event held this past weekend and notice how different the terrain is when compared to the King of Hammers.

Solid axle front end
Photo: drivetribe
Robert Butler’s IFS Buggy
Photo: offroad-armouryFB
Photo: offroad-armouryFB

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