King of the valleys is an 80 mile off-road race held over 3 days at Walters Arena in Wales. This race is deemed as the toughest off-road race in the UK. Organized by AWDC UK and currently in its second year, it has increased a lot in popularity due to its tough set up. Involving very rough rocky terrain, mud bogs, tight forest lanes, steep climbs and descents, and fast sections in gravel roads, this event offers varied obstacles necessitating specially built vehicles and team preparation.
This event is only open to 50 vehicles that must either be invited or must qualify to gain the chance to compete. Participating teams come from Italy, England, Wales, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and even the USA. This year, 4 Maltese teams had the chance to pit their skills against these multinational teams. Needless to say all teams where fully prepared to gain a place at the podium. In this serious line up were 5 fully prepared King of the Hammers vehicles which is the ultimate off-road race in the United States. King of the valleys is the European version of King of the Hammers where the first prize is a free trip and entry into the great American race.
The Maltese teams taking part in this second edition were Kamoy Engineering offroad, Nusu Offroad Team, Xelinu Offroad Racing Team and Xwing Racing. All 4 vehicles were dwarfed by many big names in the European off-road scene however all were prepared to do their best.
The event started off by a ballot which decided the start order for the pole position. The best time in Friday’s pole position, amongst the Maltese contingent, was obtained by Kamoy Engineering Offroad, Xwing Racing, Nusu Offroad Team and Xelinu Offroad Racing team respectively.
Saturday dawned and all teams were set for the race. The start was given by Shannon Campbell who is the only 2 time winner of the King of the Hammers, USA and who was present as a special highlight to the event. Unfortunately the first lap had to be stopped due to a severe crash by Xwing Racing’s vehicle. Mario Xuereb, the driver, had to be airlifted to hospital whilst Maurice Farrugia the co-driver escaped unhurt. This meant the end of their race only in the 6th mile. A tricky hump sent their vehicle flying in excess of 25 metres with the vehicle landing front end first and resulting in a head over heels roll. All competing vehicles were halted at their next checkpoint and the lap cancelled. Mario Xuereb is recovering well from his injures in Wales. All the Maltese off-road enthusiasts are following closely events and waiting for his return to our shores.
Lap 2 started under a veil of sadness amongst the Maltese since one member of their teams was injured. However all the other 3 teams were determined to do their utmost and among all the hurdles, bumps, valleys, rocks, alleys and climbs managed to finish the 21 mile lap. Kamoy Engineering Offroad managed the 7th place, Nusu offroad the 16th placing and Xelinu offroad racing the 27th place.
Following extensive repairs to the vehicles during the night by the vital backup team members, all 3 vehicles were ready to face the next day’s ordeals. On Sunday the off-roaders had to complete another 2 laps of the arduous course with only 1 hour of pit time in between the laps. The start order was according to the placing obtained on Saturday’s lap. Sunday’s 1st lap proved even tougher since the course had degenerated as many rocks had been displaced by the previous passage of the cars and a slight overnight drizzle. All the 3 Maltese cars obtained a finish however with some damages to the vehicles. These damages had to be repaired in the only hour of pit time in between the laps. The mechanics, drivers and co drivers worked feverishly to have the cars ready on time for the next start. However Xelinu Offroad Racing had suffered their second broken winch in the 3rd lap and thus had to retire from the race leaving Kamoy Enginering Offroad and Nusu Offroad Team to fly the Maltese flag. A strong winch is a vital piece of equipment in such events especially since the course had 3 steps each measuring at 2-3 m in height, as the gatekeeper prior to the finish. In such circumstances it is only the winch which has to haul the vehicle up such obstacles as horsepower, tough axles and big tyres are not enough.
The 4th lap was the deciding lap. The Italian team, Team Acerni winner of the 2012 ,race had already a strong lead over the others however it was important to obtain a finish as a non-finish bears heavy penalties. These were chased by the Swiss, the Americans, the English and the Maltese team of Kamoy Engineering. Kevin Mallia and co driver Josmar Camilleri managed to overtake the American team at the muddy and rocky sections however it was not long before the sheer brute power of the 6 litre V8 petrol LS engine in the American car, completely engulfed the 3 litre diesel engine of the Maltese car at the fast gravel roads, and thus regaining its place. A chase ensued however the diesel engine was no match for the monstrous V8. Meanwhile Neville Ciantar and Thomas Tanti of Nusu Offroad Team were trudging on in the 3.9 litre V8 range rover overcoming all obstacles with ease and gaining places. However it was a must that the vehicles be nursed to the finish.
Both Kamoy Engineering Offroad and Nusu Offroad Team managed to cross the finish line after yet another steep climb at the final obstacle which had since been nicknamed ‘The Wall’.
The race was again won by Team Acerni, the Italian team, followed by the Swiss team of driver Stephane Zosso in 2nd place, the American Levi Shirley in 3rd, the English Team, Team Gigglepin in 4th. The Maltese team of Kamoy Engineering finished a very encouraging 5th while Nusu Offroad Team managed a respectable 12th. The other 2 teams of Xelinu Offroad and Xwing Racing were further back on the grid due to not finishing a lap or more. One must point out that the level of preparation of the first 4 vehicles was very high, since they had all competed in the great American race thus leaving the Maltese team of Kamoy Engineering very satisfied to have been hot on their heels in 5th place.
The Maltese teams comprised of:
KAMOY ENGINEERING OFFROAD.
Kevin Mallia and Josmar Camilleri
NUSU OFFROAD TEAM
Neville Ciantar and Thomas Tanti
XELINU OFFROAD RACING
Goeffrey Pulis and Jiles Zammit Spadaro
Mario Xuereb and Maurice Farrugia
All the teams wish to express their gratitude to all their respective team members who worked relentlessly to ensure that the vehicles were up and running during the whole event. Special thanks go to Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sports, Kunsill Malti ghal-iSports, Malta Motorsport Federation, All Wheel Drive Club and all team sponsors for their support.