Although we all like to get those blades buzzing for a whizz around the garden to keep things trim, there are some people who are so revved up by their mowers that they’ve turned it into a motorsport. Make no mistake – lawnmower racing is a much loved pastime across the world, and involves everyone from easy riders to legendary lawn leviathans.
So how was the leap first made between garden utility and motoring over the meadows? It’s a question sure to cross the mind of anyone who first comes into contact with this fun and fast-paced sport, and its roots are closer to home than you might think.
More than a pub pipe dream
As you can imagine, lawnmower racing largely sticks to the ride-on variety, so as comical as it might be to visualise scores of people frantically pushing their whirring contraptions across the grass, wheezing for breath, it’s a little more sophisticated than that.
Much like the famous story of the invention of the telephone, the history behind lawnmower racing describes similar ideas surfacing at around the same time on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, it’s said that in 1968 a lawnmower grand prix was organised by the Ashton on Mersey Cricket Club. The idea was to fundraise for Lancashire’s cricket legend Kevin Higgs’s benefit fund, and the race itself played out over almost 900 metres of grass.
The stunt gained a lot of press, as well as sponsorship – even Esso threw its name behind it. However, in 1978, a group of friends in West Sussex were drinking at their local pub, dissatisfied with how their love of motorsports always seemed to involve sponsors and big money moving around. They wanted a fast, inexpensive and accessible way to enjoy a day at the races, and one crazy idea and a mad 80-mower dash across the local common field later, they’d invented the British Lawnmower Racing Association.
The BLMRA is as active as ever today across the British Isles, with its core principles – no commercialism, no sponsorships and no modified engines – making it a down to earth bit of fun with a sizeable national following. The likes of Chris Evans, Sir Stirling Moss and Phil Tuffnell have all been behind the wheel in BLMRA races over the years, and events are held at fetes and dedicated meets all year round.
Mowing across America
Our friends across the pond have just as much love of lawnmower racing as here in the UK, and just like here, the history of this terrific little motorsport has its roots in the 1960s. In a tradition that continues to this day, the city of Twelve Mile in Indiana commemorates Independence Day with 60 laps of mower madness around the local park. Back in 1963 the event began as a simple competition between factory-built mowers with their blades removed. Cut to today, and the race is a massive event on the local calendar. Both original model and modified mowers are welcomed nowadays, and that’s just a taste of how much the US adores sending those mowers motoring.
Two major alliances have sprung up in the USA – the American Racing Mower Association (ARMA), which was founded around a decade ago, and the more storied United States Lawn Mower Racing Association. The latter organisation commemorates 25 years of activity in 2017, although both organisations promote and co-ordinate lawnmower racers throughout North America.
Whichever side of the Atlantic you look, it’s pretty clear that lawnmower racing has a passionate following. It appeals to a huge range of people, from kids with the need for speed through to professional hobbyists who tend to and care for their prized racing mowers, right through to hot-blooded granddads with a taste for some full throttle meadow mayhem. Reckon you could one day take to the circuit?