I’ll do the obvious joke now and get it over with, then I can get on with the rest of the article. This is grass roots motorsport. There, I’ve said it. Now let’s look at this low cost, medium risk, high jinks form of motorsport; Lawn mower racing.

This all started half a century ago when an Irish chap called Jim Gavin who was into rallying got frustrated at the creeping costs and professionalism in motorsport and went to the pub, The Cricketers Arms in Wisborough Green, West Sussex, with a few friends. Opposite was (and still is) the village green and cricket pitch and after a few beers they decided to race their lawn mowers. 80 people turned up and sparked what is now heralded as the lowest cost of all motorsport. And that’s not to say it’s the least fun. There’s something both utterly ridiculous and, simultaneously, hugely appealing, about jumping on a mower and charging around a field for hours on end.

With some strict but easy to follow rules about performance and sponsorship the sport grew, with the British Lawn Mower Racing Association (BLMRA) organising races mainly in the south east of England, and other groups forming elsewhere to cater for other loons across the country. The easy going nature of the racing and good vibes in the paddock meant that people like Sir Stirling Moss and Derek Bell joined endurance teams, and won, and in later years the likes of Chris Evans, Guy Martin and Murray Walker also competed. Probably after a couple of pints. In the early summer sun I joined BLMRA in Surrey as they enjoyed a full weekend of camping, mowing, fixing and fiddling. This is mower racing. I bloody loved it.

The location was best found using the ‘three words’ app and it still took be three passes down a tiny lane before I spotted a tiny gateway to a field, where I found camping and spannering, and a lane through the woods to a rough grass field where competitors were moving hay bales around as they collectively didn’t like the layout. Marshalls are competitors taking a breather and teams muck in and support one another. I like the idea of competitors tweaking a track mid-race so it’s more to their liking. Imagine that in F1? No, me neither. There are four classes of mower racing here, with the last two being homologated to ensure some semblance of level playing field. They are Group 1 ‘run behind’, this group must be comprised of complete maniacs, pushing a mower in a race. It’s like a Grand Prix for people pushing their own car, for hours, in a field. Group 2 is for ‘towed seat and roller driven’, Group 3 is ‘small garden riders, wheel driven’ and Group 4 covers ‘small garden tractor, bonneted and wheel driven’ which is the fastest of all. 50mph-ish, they said, through the kicked up dust and lovely fug of engines, grass and summer meadow.

You’ll find the rules and info on meets online, but arrive with a lid and leathers and you’ll be fine, this sport encourages new starters and only a bit of homework and prep is needed. There are some great characters here. I asked two riders (drivers?) about cheating. One said ‘No! Never!’ while his competitor, at precisely the same moment, said ‘Yeah! All the time!’. Pulleys can be changed (much like a speedway bike) to alter gearing, but must of the propulsion side of things must stay as per factory with the pokier machines packing something like 13hp. Blades are removed, of course, and helmets are needed, but you can rent a transponder and get advice on the techie side of racing at the event or beforehand online. It all seems quite easy to get into. But how about winning?

A pair of legs protruding from underneath a ride-on was, the accompanying voice said, the world champion. A reverse grid meant that he was favourite, starting last, and still coming first in the race we watched. Some of this must be down to machinery but also the sheer bloody bravery of getting those top-heavy, oversquare, put-putting mowers airborne, on two wheels, over bumps and furrows was pretty impressive. The Group 2 teams impressed me most, being towed on a tiny dickey-seat behind a mower with grass box, their heavy, helmeted heads snapping about over the rough surfaces and corners. And this was on a course they’d changed themselves earlier. In the paddock there were mowers modified with little fenders and bumpers (recycled Tesco trolley, said one racer), and while a Gulf paintjob on a shiny Porsche will make you groan, the same scheme on a mower just adds to the fun. “Faster now!” said its triumphant, dust-caked rider. Different organisers and regions offer sprints, qualifiers, 3 hour, 12 hour and even night races for the mowing masochists. There’s even quite a following in Belgium and Zimbabwe, too. Conceived by an Irishman in a pub, mower racing is so quintessentially British; fast, eccentric, mildly dangerous and a lot of fun. I was going to wrap this article up with a pun about green fingers, but I don’t think that would cut it…

More info at WWW.BLMRA.CO.UK


About The Author

Rich Duisberg

Rich Duisberg* has had work published in Classic & Sportscar, Practical Performance Car, Modern Mini, Banzai, MogMag, Evo, GT Porsche, Complete Kit Car, Absolute Lotus, Alternative Cars, Classic Retro Modern, and elsewhere. Rich often appears on CBS’s XCAR and Carfection channels, and Motors TV, plus JayEmm on Cars, enthusing about historic motoring. His latest book (find his work on Amazon) was described by SniffPetrol as "hilarious", although he was also threatened with legal action by elderly DJ Tim Westwood. In his Midlands man cave is a 1972 Fiat 500, a Lotus Elise, a BMW barge and a vintage Royal Enfield pushbike. Previous machines of interest include an Mk1 MX5 (owned for 14 years!), an Alfa GTV6, a Porsche 968 and a Sinclair C5. The Metro (right) was bought for an experiment, and abandoned in Africa. "I am not getting in a car with him" -  said Le Mans winner, Derek Bell. *A nom-de-plume inspired by the BBC's League of Gentlemen.

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