GEOLANDAR Conquers King of the Hammers

/Consumer News, Team Yokohama
Deep within the desolate desert landscape of Johnson Valley there is one course hell-bent on crushing man, machine and tires: King of the Hammers. They call this 200-mile battle the toughest single-day off-road race in North America, and Team Yokohama member Levi Shirley whole-heartedly agrees—

“King of the Hammers has all the elements of destruction. It literally will break you mentally, physically and mechanically. Every single part of King of the Hammers is looking to tear you apart. Around every corner, in every rock trail, it is trying to break tires, it is trying to break axles, engines, oil – I mean you name it, it is trying to kill that part on your car and yourself.”

Though King of the Hammers is literally designed to be impossible, off-road racing veteran Levi Shirley has a 100% completion rate on GEOLANDARs. To us, there is no one better to give insight into the violent King of the Hammers course and its unmatched malice towards tires than Levi, who’s coming up on his 12th year battling against the formidable Johnson Valley.

Keep reading and you’ll find that Johnson Valley is home to the most punishing proving grounds. With the help of Levi Shirley himself, we present to you: the ultimate GEOLANDAR torture test.



Levi Hittin' Backdoor
90º cliff about 14-feet tall with the biggest pit dug out of the bottom.

How is Backdoor trying to murder GEOLANDAR?

Backdoor is a game of traction—you have to have the right tire. You’re just lighting up the tire in order to even get up. With GEOLANDAR, I’m able to find all the traction I need to get up Backdoor.

What’s the key to keeping your vehicle alive during this section?

The rocks leading up to Backdoor are probably where you’re going to make your mistake. There are tons of little boulders that you can smash a tire on and get a flat if you’re not careful. You’ve gotta hit your marks and lines perfect. You get one or two shots at it before you’re pulling winch line... Confidence is key. In order to get up, you’ve gotta be confident in your vehicle, your tires and yourself.

What’s the biggest threat here?

Flipping over. A: Nobody wants to be humiliated at Backdoor. All eyes are on Backdoor and you don’t want to be that turtle rolled over on your back. B: You don’t want to mechanically risk your car and lose a bunch of time having to roll yourself back over.

If you’re runnin’ for fun, which GEOLANDAR are you tackling Backdoor with?

GEOLANDAR M/T is definitely the tire of choice.

Levi Runnin' Chocolate Thunder
Part dune. Part rock. Always a million spectators wrapped around it.

How is Chocolate Thunder trying to murder GEOLANDAR?

Chocolate Thunder is trying to tear apart my car and my tires constantly. It’s a ton of little rocks buried in the sand, looking at jumping out and striking at any point in time.

What’s the key to keeping your vehicle alive during this section?

The sand at Chocolate Thunder robs horsepower. You’ll be completely matted on the floor trying to go up around a rock, and if you’ve got a heavy tire you won’t be able to optimize the horsepower. Yokohama GEOLANDAR is a little bit of a lighter tire and really works great in the sand.

What’s the biggest threat here?

There’s not a lot to recover yourself on at Chocolate Thunder. It’s very risky in the sense that if you roll over, there’s not a ton of things to hook onto and get self-righted. You’ve gotta either use other people or a rock. There’s a lot to lose in this area.

If you’re running for fun, which GEOLANDAR tire are you choosing for Chocolate Thunder?

GEOLANDAR X-AT. It really shines in the sand and the rocks as well.


Levi Tacklin' Jackhammer
It will absolutely beat you to death. Best way to describe it.

How is Jackhammer trying to murder GEOLANDAR?

You’re going from the right side of the canyon, to the left side of the canyon, to the right side to the left side. And once you get through all the crazy nuisance rocks, you have three little climbs you have to do in the loose sand and loose dirt to get out of there. It is constantly trying to rip apart my GEOLANDARs. Constantly trying to kill those tires.

The rocks are so big and so obtrusive—they’re hitting your right front, your left front, right rear, left rear—constantly trying to give you flat tires. A lot of times you’re scrubbing tires on the sides of the canyon, to try to get through and squeeze around some of the big rocks on your right. In that sense, it’s trying to kill sidewalls.

What’s the key to keeping your vehicle alive during this section?

Be patient, but don’t be afraid to use horsepower to get through it. Use momentum. It’s an uphill battle—uphill the whole way—so momentum is your friend on this. Keep the traction moving forward.

What’s the biggest threat here?

Flat tires. 100%.

If you’re running for fun, which GEOLANDAR tire are you tackling Jackhammer with?



Levi Gunnin' It Over Lake Bed
100% pure speed.

How is the lake bed trying to murder GEOLANDAR?

The lake bed’s a unique one. It’s trying to destroy everything. Just after you get done beating your car through the gnarliest desert into the gnarliest rock trails, you now have to run 100+ mph across a completely smooth lake bed. You might have sidewall damage, a tire that’s out of balance from taking those rock hits, drivelines getting damaged, maybe a bent wheel—trying to run 120 mph can be super catastrophic.

What’s the key to keeping your vehicle alive during this section?

This is where patience comes in. You gotta be super in tune with your car on the lake bed to not push it too hard and ultimately risk blowing something apart at 100+ mph. Keep it calm, cool, collected.

What’s the biggest threat here?

Definitely something on the car coming apart at that speed. Something being out of balance, something being broken, that’s where it really shows its head—the second you try to run over 100 mph on the lake bed.

If you’re running for fun, which GEOLANDAR tire are you tackling the lake bed with?

GEOLANDAR M/T for high-speed running.

Jumps, turns, huge banks… You almost feel like you’re racing Talladega.

How is the short course trying to murder GEOLANDAR?

This one’s actually super easy on tires. What’s unique about the short course is the fact that it gets rutted out, so you’re going into corners that might have 1- to 2-foot deep ruts that you might slam into.

What’s the key to keeping your vehicle alive during this section?

This one’s a game of self-control. The short course is where King of the Hammers all starts. It’s right where the course finishes as well. A lot of times that’s where your emotions are running very, very high. You just raced 200 miles and you might screw up in the last 20 feet of the race going a little too hard into a corner or into the jumps. Self-control is very, very important, just knowing how your car’s going to react.

What’s the biggest threat here?

Rolling over in one of the corners or the jumps. You can’t gain a lot of time here, but you can lose a lot of time.

If you’re runnin’ for fun, which GEOLANDAR are you tackling the short course with?

GEOLANDAR M/T for this as well.

Miles and miles of slick rock with tons of little holes and crevices.

How is Backdoor trying to murder GEOLANDAR?

Cougar Buttes is trying to destroy me from the second I enter to the time I’m finishing. There’s a ton of little rock crevices out there that you could nose into and be Done. Your day is done if you’re not on your A-game.

What’s the key to keeping your vehicle alive during this section?

Memorization. That’s how I’m getting through Cougar Buttes. You can be 12 inches off your line and it’s catastrophic to your day. You’ve got to be very aware of your surroundings and know exactly where you’re at all times.

What’s the biggest threat here?

Definitely race over if you were to go upside down in certain sections of Cougar Buttes. One wrong move and it’s race over. On top of that, it’s at the furthest point of the racecourse you could possibly be. If you have issues, you’re a long way from home.

If you’re runnin’ for fun, which GEOLANDAR are you tackling the short course with?

You want to have all the grip possible, so GEOLANDAR M/T.


The craziest, hardest rock trail ever.

How is Outer Limits trying to murder GEOLANDAR?

Such a wild course that takes no prisoners. It will rip every single corner off your race car. It is trying to kill every single tire. You never get a break from start to finish. The second you enter that canyon, you get that feeling in your stomach of holy [smokes] I’m about to go do this.

What’s the key to keeping your vehicle alive during this section?

Patience. There’s rocks the size of Volkswagens and every one of them is loose. It’s very hard to navigate your way through it.

What’s the biggest threat here?

You don’t get a chance to even pull over and change a tire in that section. There’s no place to pull over. There’s huge rocks and they’re constantly trying to roll under the car and get stuck on the driveline. It’s pretty soft sand as well, so if you do get belly hung you just dip. You’re not able to go anywhere.

If you’re runnin’ for fun, which GEOLANDAR are you tackling Outer Limits with?



CategoriesConsumer NewsTeam Yokohama

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