Widely recognized as one of the toughest off-road races in the world, Griffin King of the Hammers consists of vast deserts and a minefield of near-vertical rock faces littered with boulders the size of small houses. This year's race, won by Loren Healy, was no exception.
However, it was Tom Wayes — the man with the maddest mustache — that caused the biggest stir when he side-surfed a terrifying rock face known as Backdoor to pass a stricken competitor, causing online forums to proclaim him a "total badass" and "driving god."
Some 40,000 spectators lined the trails of Johnson Valley, Calif., while 400 teams competed in the timed event; only eight years ago the race drew 12 teams with winning drivers earning a refreshing case of beer. The event consists of roughly 165 miles, which racers must complete in less than 14 hours. In the ULTRA4 class, machines must be capable of 4-wheel drive, but beyond that, the rules are wide open. This leaves vehicles managing speeds north of 100 mph, and yet still maintaining gear ratios as low as 100-to-1 for that explosive burst necessary to scale steep rock sections, such as Backdoor.
For Tom Wayes, he needed every ounce of that power, as a fellow racer was left stranded and awaiting a tow. Against the clock, Wayes couldn't wait, and after taking a brief look at the line to the left, decided the wisest move was to side-surf the rock face to the right. As he powered through, the custom-made, LS7-powered buggy almost tips over, and a person on the trail, presumably helping tow the stricken vehicle, has to leap out of the way to avoid becoming road kill (the video above misses that part, but you can see it here instead). The crowd goes bananas.
When asked about the passing maneuver, Wayes and his mustache could only laugh. If the Marlboro Man still existed today, he'd be the guy for the job — a rugged type who's not afraid of a job that could kill him.
- Sports & Recreation