Lawnmower Racing

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Lawn Mower Racing .......  The Alternative Motor Sport?

The modern sport of lawn mower racing has its origins in a meeting of enthusiastic beer drinkers at the Cricketers Arms, Wisborough Green, West  Sussex, one evening in 1973.  At the time, motor sport consultant Jim Gavin had just returned from a rally reconnaissance in the Sahara, and talk naturally turned to other forms of motor and motorcycle sport.  The main point of discussion turned around the horrendously escalating costs involved in all branches of motor sport, whether it be rallying, racing, scrambling or whatever.  So a few beers later, minds began to explore thoughts of an alternative form of motor sport with the main criteria since it is competitive, lots of fun and above all cheap.  But what could we race? Motorised bar-stools and wheel barrows were soon passed as being passť and so we were left with Lawn Mowers.

Lawnmower Racer (30-60mph)

The first British Grand Prix meeting for lawn mowers ran at Wisborough Green in 1973 and attracted an entry of 35 drivers who drove mowers ranging from a 1923 Atco to a brand new 8 h.p. Wheel horse.  There were races for run behind mowers, towed seat mowers and the type you sit on top of.  These formed the present day classification which are Class 1, run behind, Class 2, Towed Seat type, Class 3 , the sit on type,

Run behind mowers are the grass roots of the sport and their speed is governed merely by the ability of the perspiring runner to stay with the machine.  They are particularly good to watch when the drivers try to swap without loosing speed or control of the mower in a Class 1 relay race.  The Class 3 mowers tended to be the slowest, often doing only 6 or 7 m.p.h. but over the years with much attention paid to gearing, they have become the fastest class, almost as fast and often more reliable as the class 2 type.  Once the more usual roller of the seat itself has been lowered, the driver has much more control.  The handlebars are lowered to match the seat and it's a soul stirring sight to watch a full field of class 2 mowers, grass box to grass box, exhausts bellowing, powering round (reaching 35 m.p.h.) a tight circuit.

Over the years the sport grew rapidly.  Upward of 100 enthusiasts had their own mowers, purely for racing, by the end of the 70's the public became more interested when in 1975 Stirling Moss attracted by the club atmosphere and fun of racing, made hid first return to motor racing since his near fatal crash at Goodwood in 1962.  Moss, driving with all of his old skill and with great enthusiasm for this new sport, won the British Grand Prix for lawn mowers in 1975 and again in 1976.

Hayter Racing Mower

By 1976 there were races at four or five different villages in Surrey and Sussex and it's from these countries that the majority of competitors still come.  But clubs dedicated to racing lawn mowers have, over the years sprung up all over the country, namely at the Ross's Arms, Astley, Manchester.  Along with the setting up of National Championships to cater for these different groups, 1978 saw the arrival of enthusiastically adopted ideas in this phenomenally successful sport.  The now annual 12 hour race held at Wisborough Green.  The race started at 10 a.m. on the Saturday closest to Mid summers day and ended 12 hours later at 10 a.m. on the Sunday morning.  With a Le Mans type start the race attracted 47 entries that first year, 8 of them being class 1 (run behind).  After a night of thrills and spills (none too serious apart from the unfortunate incident when a run away machine ran into, and demolished the canvas surrounding the ladies lavatory, (the lady who sped screaming like a banshee into the night has to this day never identified herself.)  The winner turned out to be Sterling Moss.  Derek Bell and Tony Hazlewood.  Later in 1980, Derek Bell wrote himself into the Guinness Book of Records with his 276 miles being the greatest distance ever covered in a lawn mower race.

Apart from the 12 hour race, the other big event on the national race calendar is the two day World Championships held at Wisborough Green.  This two days of racing has attracted entries from as far as Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong entry captured the superb marble trophy for class 3 mowers in 1980.

Now  we have our own Lawn Mower Racing Association here in the North West, created to fill the same gap as the B.L.M.R.A. a cheap form of motor sport.   The N.W.L.M.R.A. holds it's race meetings at charity events up and down the North West.  Racing under the similar to the  B.L.M.R.A. the North West Association has taken the charity events scene by storm, providing splendid advertisement for it's commercial members as well as raise money for the charity involved and providing good sport for it's members.

All mowers themselves are self propelled i.e. they must have engines which move along and must all have been originally designed, manufactured and sold commercially to mow lawns.  By lawns we mean domestic lawns and not the steppes of Russia, the Canadian prairies or huge golf courses.  Mower racing could be the answer to many more would be motor sport enthusiasts who have been put off by the horrendous cost.  We are not saying it is a perfect substitute, but, having once sat behind a screaming, bucking and almost out of control lawn mower at speeds of up to 35 m.p.h. while in close contact with about a dozen similar machines roaring around a bumpy track in a stubble field, you will have to admit it is an awfully good alternative.

If you would like to know more information

British Lawnmower Racing Association.

Web Site http://www.nwlmra.org/

North West Lawn Mower Racing Association.            

Nigel Sands, 112 Western Drive, Leyland PR5 3JH  Telephone:01772 624121  

United States Lawnmower Racing Association.

Web Site http://www.letsmow.com                                        

 

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