Ultra4 Europe: everything you need to know

Everyone knows everyting about King of the Hammers, its kings and how Ultra4 Racing was born. And what about Ultra4 Europe? Its kings and its champions? In this article I will try to tell you everything you need to know about Ultra4 Europe. 

Photography and story by Paolo Baraldi

ultra4 europe

In 2009 videos, pictures and stories from King of the Hammers started to arriving in Europe and immediately a large number of european offroad enthusiast was in love for this kind of race.


My first King of the Hammers was in 2011 and from that moment I could no longer live without it. At the same time the fame of the King of the Hammers was growing more and more in Europe to became now one of the most famous races among European offroaders.

European drivers at King of the Hammers

My research into the history of the King of the Hammers made me discover that the first European driver to participate and finish KOH was the Belgian Dieter Duytschaever in 2009. In 2010 the German Ralf Kueller also finish the King of the Hammers in 28th position. Kueller also raced in the Lakebed in 2015.

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Axel Burmann

In the Ultra4 Europe era, Axel Burmann (Belgium) participated in the King of the Hammers in 2012, followed in 2013 by Jim Marsden, Pier Acerni, Stephane Zosso and again Axel Burmann. In 2013, Jim Marsden started last in the Everyman Challenge and he finished in first position overtaking all other drivers. Although later disqualified, Marsden's remains an epic race!

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Jim Marsden and Wayne Smith on the podium of 2013 Everyman Challenge

In the following years many other drivers went or returned to compete at KOH as Pier Acerni with Will Overton as co-pilot and in recent years with the Team Europe 2019 (Nicolas Montador, Iñaki Lanzagorta Egia, Neville Ciantar, Daniel Roderick, Michael Hen and the Vekeman brothers) and Team Europe 2020 (Iñaki Lanzagorta Egia, Bernd Schäfer, Shabs Piercy and Philon Parpottas). In the Ultra4 Europe era (from 2012) the Englishman Rob Butler in 2016 was the first to finish the KOH. The Spaniard Inaki Lanzagorta completed the challenge in 2020.

ultra4 europe
Inaki Lanzagorta

Robert Butler raced twice at King of the Hammers: 2015 and 2016. In 2015 he drove Layla Levi Shirley's old vehicle but got fought in a huge bottleneck at Sledghammer and ran out of time as a result. In 2016 he shipped his own mid engine Eurofighter (solid axle) to the Lakebed and he completed the race in time placing 23rd... only like 35 cars finished the race. Rob is still the only European driver ever to compete and finish King of the Hammers in a European built Ultra4 vehicle (his Off-Road Armoury built solid axel Eurofighter). In 2020 Rob Butler raced the UTV King of the Hammers with Levi Shirley as co-pilot, finishing in 23rd position.

ultra4 europe
Rob Butler and Levi Shirley

It is correct to remember that the Italian Fabio Manno, who moved to live in the States, has participated in the King of the Hammers every year since 2011.

How is born Ultra4 Europe

2012 is the year of the first Ultra4 race in Europe; the race took place in Wales and was called King of Valleys. For 2 years the King of Valleys represented Ultra4 Racing in Europe. In 2013 the King of Portugal was added and in 2014 Ultra4 Europe was born with its championship composed of 3 races: King of the Mountains (IT), King of Valleys (UK) and King of Portugal (P).

Today, Ultra4 Europe is an huge reality in the European offroad world

Every year there are 4 races and even if the race course is different from that in the Johnson Valley, Ultra4 Europe offers to its drivers a very difficult and demanding races. Due to the diversity of the competition fields (rocks, mud, water, forests and dusty-fast tracks) it can be said that the Ultra4 Europe championship is one of the most complete in Europe.

ultra4 europe

As for Ultra4 Racing, the categories of Ultra4 Europe are: 4400 Unlimited, 4800 Legend, 4600 Stock, 4500 Modified and 4900 UTV but the races format is different from the American one; normally we race on the weekend, preceded by qualifying and by the Shootout, on a racetrack with some different variations according to the category. 

U4E, did you know that?

- The Ultra4 Europe team is made up of very professional and very passionate people. Everyone works behind the scenes to make every race perfect. Chris Bowler and David Robson are best known to all.

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Chris Bowler
ultra4 europe
David Robson

- The Italian Pier Aceni was the first winner of the King of the Valleys. Pier won also the 2013 edition of the race.


- Shannon Campbell was in Wales in 2013 and, with Dave Cole as co-pilot, he drove Jim Marsden’s car.


- In 2014 Levi Shirley was the first Ultra4 Europe champion with three out of 4 races won.


- In 2017 Casey Currie won the King of Portugal.


- Bailey Cole, son of Dave Cole, raced in Europe in 2017 winning the King of France and the King of Britain.


- In 2019 JT Taylor drove Axel Burmann’s cars at King of France.


Jim Marsden, is the 2019 Ultra4 Europe champion with an important record: he is the only driver with the most victories from 2012 to 2020. He won 7 races! 

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Jim Marsden

- In Europe there are great Ultra4 rigs builders such as Rob Butler (Offroad Armoury) and Nicolas Montador (WSR Offroad). Both are building their new vehicles for the 2020/2021 season and both rigs will be IFS.

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Nicolas Montador

- Rob Butler is the only European to race in an IFS Single Seater and was the first in Europe to build IFS vehicles.


- Axel Burmann with Tom Olieslagers as co-pilote is the only one to race with a two-seat IFS build by Offroad Armoury. 

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Axel Burmann and Tom Olieslagers

- In 2019 Kerry Hufton as an Ultra4 Europe staff member has switched to the competitors as co-pilot of Nicolas Montador.


 - King of Spain 2019 was one of the most epic Ultra4 Europe race due to bad weather conditions.


2022. On 16 December, RBI Sport with Rallye Breslau and Ultra4 joined forces to write an important new chapter in the history of the international off-road. This first step that Alex Kovatchev and Dave Cole have taken together is the prelude to a more assiduous and fruitful collaboration that will produce an incredible game changer in the off-road world in the future. 2023 will see the first step of this collaboration with the Ultra4 teams (European and American) who will participate in the Rallye Breslau. In addition, a plan for 2024 will be established and it will include the Ultra4 class in all RBI Sport events: Fenix Rally in the Tunisian Sahara, in March, Rallye Breslau in Poland in the end of June/beginning of July and Balkan Offroad Rallye in the mountains and valleys of Transylvania/Romania in the beginning of October.

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Ultra4 Europe Kings and Champions


- King of Britain (UK): Jim Marsden (UK)

- Essential (UK): Kieran Dunlop (UK)



- King of Spain Les Comes (E): Jim Marsden (UK)

- King of France (FR): Rob Butler (UK)

- King of Britain (UK): Jim Marsden (UK)

- King of Poland (PL): Jim Marsden (UK)

- U4E Champion: Jim Marsden (UK)



- King of France (FR): Jim Marsden (UK)

- King of Britain (UK): Jesus Pato (E)

- King of Portugal (P): Jorge Araujo (P)

- King of Poland (PL): Axel Burmann (B)

- U4E Champion: Jorge Araujo (P)



- King of France (FR): Bailey Cole (USA)

- King of Wales (UK): Rob Butler (UK)

- King of Portugal (P): Casey Currie (USA)

- King of Britain (UK): Bailey Cole (USA)

- U4E Champion: Jelle Janssens (B)



- King of France (FR): Emmanuel Costa (P)

- King of Italy (IT): Emmanuel Costa (P)

- King of Britain (UK): Jim Marsden (UK)

- King of Portugal (P): Emmanuel Costa (P)

- U4E Champion: Emmanuel Costa (P)



- King of Italy (IT): Rob Butler (UK)

- King of Valleys (UK): Nicolas Montador (FR)

- King of Portugal (P): Emmanuel Costa (P)

- U4E Champion: Filipe Guimareas (P)



- King of the Mountains (IT): Levi Shirley (USA)

- King of Glens (UK): Jim Marsden (UK)

- King of the Valleys (UK): Levi Shirley (USA)

- King of Portugal (P): Levi Shirley (USA)

- U4E Champion: Levi Shirley (USA)



- King of the Valleys (UK): Pier Acerni (IT)

- King of Portugal (P): Emmanuel Costa (P)



- King of the Valleys (UK): Pier Acerni (IT)      

About King of the Hammers and Ultra4

King of the Hammers, founded in 2007, takes place every year in the early days of February in the Johnson Valley.


King of the Hammers is an off-road race that combines desert racing and rock crawling. This race is held on Means Dry Lake at Johnson Valley, California United States. King of The Hammers race week has expanded from one race, Nitto King of The Hammers, held each year on Friday, to a series of 5 races held throughout the week. The races include King of the Motos, Can AM UTV Race, the Every Man Challenge Race, the Toyo Desert Invitational (Unlimited Trophy Trucks), and the Ultra4 vs. Rock Bouncer shootout held on Monday night of race week.


The race vehicles used at the King of the Hammers are known as Ultra 4 vehicles which are capable of speeds over 100 miles per hour for the desert sections, but still contain gear ratios of 100 to 1 or lower for technical rock crawling. This Ultra4 class is unlimited 4400, and every vehicle is custom fabricated by each team. Traditional design for the front drive-train is a straight axle design, but (IFS) or (Independent front suspension) is becoming a popular design for the high speeds achieved in the wide open plains of the desert. Most racers use highly modified engines that can have up to 800 hp. 40" tires are common and racers use beadlock wheels. Competitors start side-by-side, two vehicles every thirty seconds, and must complete the course in fewer than 14 hours. Each team must pass through seven checkpoints and at all times while staying within one hundred feet of the centerline of the course. KOH is a no-chase-team race; repairs can only be done on the track by the racers or in the pit area. 

ultra4 europe king of the hammers
Backdoor, one of the most iconic trails of the King in the Hammers