Driver: Mel Wade
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Car: #4451 Discount Tire Off Road Evolution Jeep
- 1st Place: Vegas to Reno, the longest desert race in the United States
- 3rd Place – Nitto Tire Ultra 4 National Finals
- 1st in 4400 class and fastest jeep time in the 2014 Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno race
Bio: Mel Wade, Owner of Off Road Evolution, EVO Manufacturing and JK Experience has been an Off Road Enthusiast since before he can remember. With a background of Motorcycle Racing, Desert Racing and Rock Crawling, in 2013, Mel teamed up with Discount Tire, Nitto Tire and ATX Wheels to form an Off Road Race Team to tackle the King of the Hammers and other Ultra 4 Races throughout the year.
Mel Wade is no stranger to the Off Road World or building and running off road vehicles. Over the last eight years, Off Road Evolution has grown from a 3 bay shop to a 9000 square foot facility located in Fullerton California. Off Road Evolution is known for building bad ass off road vehicles. They do everything from basic bolt on kits to full custom fabrication. Featured in 100s of articles in Multiple Off Road Magazines, U Tube Videos and various Social Media Outlets, Off Road Evolution has become one of the Premier Off Road Shops in Southern California.
What approach & strategy will you take at KOH this year?
MW: In the past I have stayed in the driver’s seat and let my co-driver do most of the physical work. He is a Green Beret so he can take it! This year though I am co-driving in the UTV race with my son and competing in three different classes at King of the Hammers, so I have been doing a lot of training and conditioning to prepare for the week.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your past experiences with KOH?
MW: The smallest mechanical issues can take you out of the race. Last year we lost reverse and then the synthetic winch cable actually melted after getting too hot. We have learned some lessons the hard way in the past, everyone does. That experience might be unpleasant at the time, but we learn from it. We have a dedicated staff that are prepping a number of vehicles for not only our team but customers as well so that others do not have to learn the hard way.
While winning is the ultimate goal, what would you consider a success this year at KOH?
MW: We have lofty goals for the entire EVO team this year. We will have six different vehicles racing in four different classes. While everyone is racing to win, with King of the Hammers being so brutally challenging, getting every one of our vehicles to the finish line would be a great source of pride for me and my teammates.
What would winning the King of the Hammers mean to you?
MW: I have been fortunate enough to do a lot of cool things in the off-road world. I have won my class in Vegas to Reno, I have been on the Ultimate Adventure countless times. I even have my own creation, the JK Experience. Winning King of the Hammers would definitely be one of my most prized accomplishments though.
What unique challenges are you and your team facing this year?
MW: Melvin IV is the current UTV class champion and I want to help him get the win more than anything. I am driving the Evo TJ in the Stock Class and then the EVO1 JK in the main race with off-the-shelf suspension parts, so that is definitely a unique challenge. There are a lot of moving parts when you have six vehicles racing in three different races. I feel very fortunate to have such great friends who come out and volunteer their time to help our team on race day. Evo will have a semi-truck in the main pit this year and pool our resources together for pitting and pre-running.
What are you looking forward to in 2015 and beyond?
MW: This sport is so young, the cars are constantly getting faster. I love the new technology and coming up with ideas to stay ahead of the competition. The fans seem to love it too, and I am looking forward to racing in front of packed stands and live online fans all season long.
What will it take for you to get/keep the competitive advantage this year?
MW: We have been doing this long enough now that we have an idea what parts are vulnerable and what needs to be done to keep a race vehicle in one piece. Physical training and diet are the biggest changes I have made to stay ahead of the competition. I have lost nearly 100 pounds in the last year through daily exercise and healthy meals. I am jogging and biking for conditioning and looking forward to getting back into skateboarding too.
How do you balance the demands of racing with family life?
MW: That is actually the easy part for me. My son and daughter are old enough to participate and some of our family’s best memories and most valuable family time is spent together racing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.