The annual King of the Hammers (KOH) off-road race has become a season-opener competition along with its reputation as one of the toughest races of the year. Manufacturers and privateer drivers battle the rocky and remote desert course that tests vehicles and driver skills like no other course.
Polaris Racing drivers kicked off the 2023 season and the KOH event by registering the top three overall finishing times across all UTV classes, en route to sweeping the B3 UTV Open Class podium. Following his recent Baja 1000 win, Branden Sims continued his momentum into the new year, driving his race-modified RZR Pro R to victory via elapsed time, beating Doug Mittag by more than a minute. Mittag also put forth a stellar performance, finishing second, while Brayden Baker rounded out the Polaris podium in third.
At the wave of the green flag, Mittag quickly took the lead and began methodically navigating his way across the Johnson Valley desert floor. He maintained the front spot throughout the two-lap 240-mile race, leading wire-to-wire to take the physical win. However, due to time adjustment, Mittag ultimately finished second in class. Sims, who started in fifth, continued to push an impressive pace as he attempted to catch Mittag. Although unsuccessful in his attempt, Sims was able to take the checkered flag and win in overall elapsed time.
"I do all forms of racing, and this is probably the closest thing to Baja in the states, because we're taking on every type of terrain – whoops, silt, dry lake beds…everything," said Sims. "I couldn't be happier with this new RZR Pro R platform. It is a total game-changer for UTV racing. I've driven it three races in a row now, capturing three podiums and wins at two of our sport's most prestigious events. Other than a few race modifications, this thing is pretty much stock, and at the pace we're pushing these vehicles, the durability and performance are nothing short of amazing."
Throughout the race, Sims leaned on his navigator, Skyler Howell, to keep him out of harm's way based on key course markers the duo identified in pre-running the course. In combination with that intel, he maintained the use of his stock RZR Pro R's 7-inch touchscreen display Powered by RIDE COMMAND for visual reference throughout the race. Using the combination of Howell in his ear, and his eyes on the stock gauge and navigation, Sims was able to make sure they were hitting their marks.
With the overall sweep at King of the Hammers, following November's Baja 1000 victory, the Polaris RZR Pro R is staking a claim as desert racing's most dominant UTV.
"I can't imagine a better way to start the 2023 season than coming out to King of the Hammers and dominating our competition with an overall UTV podium sweep in the Desert Challenge," said Brett Carpenter, Team Polaris Racing Manager. "Following up our victory in Baja with an overall sweep at the season's first event is powerful validation for the RZR Pro R as the most dynamic and capable side-by-side platform available today. When you put elite drivers like Branden (Sims), Doug (Mittag) and Brayden (Baker) behind the wheel of a RZR Pro R, incredible things can happen, as evidence by what we accomplished here today."
The three Polaris RZR drivers will continue to be in action this week throughout the remainder of the 2023 King of the Hammers.