Team Nitto Tire dominates 2014 Ultra4 Off-Road Series
Loren Healy takes 4400 “Unlimited Class” West & East title and Nitto Tire Ultra4 National Championship win in Reno, Nevada this past weekend.
Nitto Tire, a leading manufacturer of off-road and street performance tires dominated the eight race 2014 Ultra4 Series this year with its team of drivers. Recognized as the most demanding off-pavement four-wheeled form of racing, Ultra4 racing combine the dual-sport disciplines of high speed off-road dirt and 4-Low rock-crawling competition. The series’ flagship, the King of the Hammers race is the toughest one-day event in off-road and covers nearly 200+ miles on a course that combines triple-digit-speed desert sections with technical boulder piles that often require winching.
Loren Healy claimed the overall 2014 Ultra4 4400 “Unlimited Class” points title for Nitto Tire. Driving a new-this-year Jimmy’s 4x4 IFS buggy running 40” Trail Grapplers, Healy put an exclamation point on his 2014 season with a win at the Nitto Tire National Championships on October 18 at the Wild West Motorsports Park in Reno, Nevada. All but assured of his points title prior to the Reno race, Healy nonetheless went flat out, winning his fourth event out of seven this year, beginning with his 2014 King of the Hammers crown win, his second such win. Of those 8 races, Healy had two other podium finishes in his amazing 2014 campaign, second at the Metal Cloak Stampede and a third at the Badlands race.
Although the 4400 Class points title was basically in the bag before the event, the Nitto Tire National Championship wasn’t without controversy. On race morning, Ultra4 CEO Dave Cole announced that the main event would be on a corrected timed seven-lap dash. So, first across the finish line wasn’t automatically the winner. Even crazier, the green flag was located after a boulder pile. This obstacle up front and ahead of the green flag had competitors wondering if those that waited for the jam to clear before hitting the rocks had an advantage: The clock didn’t start until each competitor conquered the rocks and passed the official start.
The first three laps were an epic battle between Loren Healy and Ultra4 legend, former King of the Hammers champion Shannon Campbell. With Healy, Campbell swapping the lead numerous times and Loren applying serious pressure, Campbell caught a rut and rolled hard, breaking his buggy and taking him out of contention. Healy took commanding control from then on, getting to the checkered flag first overall in a blistering pace. At the finish Loren and other drivers waited nervously for official times to be announced. Finally, the clock indicated that Loren Healy had beat Nitto teammate Erik Miller by more than 12.5 seconds. The King was crowned once again.
“This season was unlike any in the history of Ultra4 racing,” Healy humbly said. “In 5 seasons of the sport, no Ultra4 driver has ever had a perfect season. It is definitely a dream come true and probably something that will be extremely tough to repeat. Nitto Trail Grapplers give me an advantage over all the other competition: no other tire is as strong, hooks up, and gives me the control I need to be on top. I’m very lucky to be a part of team Nitto!”
Second-place finisher Erik Miller had the only solid-axle vehicle in the Top 10. Miller, who lost his mother to breast cancer when he was eight years old, ran pink coil springs to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“We were in fifth for the first part of the race, then began to pick off and pass cars until we found second place,” said Miller. “We made up roughly half a lap on Loren and finished seconds behind him. We had a great run and maybe could have taken the lead had there been another lap. Our Nitto Grapplers were flawless, and we ran progressively faster on each lap.”
After the race, most of the drivers and crews of the 106 registered vehicles (60 Unlimited 4400s, 46 spread among the Limited classes) celebrated at the year-end banquet with more than 500 people filled the Atlantis Casino. The banquet allowed Team Nitto to reflect on its 2014 Ultra4 success. In the Unlimited 4400 Class, Nitto drivers Erik Miller, and Jason Blanton joined winner Loren Healy in the Top 10. Mel Wade Sr. took second in 4400 Stock, Mel Wade Jr. claimed the UTV Sportsman series title and Mike Bou took home Ultra4 “Rookie of the Year Award” in 4400 on Trial Grapplers.
“Loren’s Ultra4 series championship is a great achievement for Nitto,” added Nitto Tire U.S.A. Off-Road and Light-Truck Manager Chris Corbett. “It unifies the efforts of everyone within our organization: engineering, manufacturing, marketing, technical, a true team effort by everyone at Nitto. Of the 9 tire brands I’ve witnessed competing in Ultra4 this season, Nitto dominated in 2014 by building the best possible product and partnering with some of the best drivers in Ultra4, like Mr. Healy. We are already looking forward to the 2015 season, beginning with King of the Hammers the first week of February to continue our win streak, add a few surprises and hopefully add another Ultra4 sweep next year.”