If you’re looking for a slightly different sport that’s a little more ridiculous than usual or just an alternative use for a lawnmower, why not try lawn mower racing? This sport is good fun and usually entered into for entertainment in a spirit of fun, making it an entertaining and accessible sport to participate in or watch, but it is possible to also take the sport seriously if you want to. This sport is a real thing, and is more interesting and exciting than you might think!
If you’ve been interested in lawn mower racing for a while, or have never even heard of it before, read on for a brief introduction to lawnmower racing. We at Best of Machinery have put together a short guide to lawnmower racing, exploring the history of this unusual sport and its modern state, as well as answering some of the most frequently asked questions about lawnmower racing.
What is Lawn Mower Racing?
Lawn mower racing is exactly what it sounds like: the sport of racing lawnmowers! While it might sound like a joke, this lawn mowing competition is entirely real, and consists of racing lawn mowers around pre-defined courses, just like cars or go-karts. While some races require the use of a lawn mower with all its factory standard parts, other races allow participants to tinker with their lawn mowers, adjusting them for higher performance and faster speeds, as long as the main chassis and the engine are still those of the original lawn mower.
Lawn mower racing should not be confused with similar sports such as go-karting! Go-karts often use lawn mower engines, especially for lower powered karts aimed at amateurs, but the two sports are distinct and clearly separate. Lawn mower racing requires both engine and chassis to be from regular models of lawn mowers, and can occur on far rougher surfaces than go-karting!
The History of Lawn Mower Racing
The earliest known record of anyone racing lawn mowers was in 1968, in the United Kingdom, when the Ashton on Mersey Cricket Club organized a lawn mower race as a charitable event for the benefit fund of cricketer Ken Higgs. This was an 880-yard race, and even had corporate sponsorship! People may well have raced lawn mowers for fun before this, but the 1968 Lawn Mower Grand Prix is the first recorded instance of an organized lawn mower race anywhere in the world.
Lawn Mower Racing is still primarily centered around the United Kingdom, although lawn mower racing clubs exist across the world. The British Lawn Mower Racing Association (BLMRA) was founded in 1973 in order to create a motorsport that did not cost very much to get involved in, as most people own lawn mowers and they are far cheaper than racing cars!
Lawn Mower races now range from short distant sprint races to long distance endurance races, with the BLMRA 12 hour annual endurance race running every year since 1978. This is an internationally renowned lawn mower racing competition that attracts participants from across Europe and even occasionally from the USA.
In the USA, lawn mower racing has been a sport since the 1970s, with a wide range of different racing events across the nation. The sport was imported from the U.K. by a petrol company, the staff of which had witnessed a lawn mower racing meet and wanted to introduce the sport to the USA on their return. Since then, American lawn mower racing has grown to have many different national organizations, ranging from the American Racing Mower Association to the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association.
Types of Lawn Mowers Used For Racing
There are many different types of lawn mower used in lawn mower races. As long as your lawn mower is self-propelled, it is probably eligible! Whether it is a ride-on mower or a push behind mower, there’s a race for you. Some races will have separate classes available for different types of mower, but others are more casual and do not have any particular restrictions on which types of lawn mower are used in the races. In general, though, as long as it has got a lawn mower chassis and a lawn mower engine, it’s used for racing somewhere.
The one modification that is essential is the inclusion of a tethered kill switch. These are safety elements that automatically shut down the engine of a ride on vehicle in the event of the rider being thrown off the saddle. They are generally available for snowmobiles and other similar vehicles and must be firmly attached to both the driver and the racing lawn mower as a safety precaution in lawn mower racing.
Higher powered lawn mowers must always be inspected by racing committees to ensure that they are safe and not packing any illicit extra power that might give an unfair edge over regulation lawn mower components. This is a process known as “homologation,” and it is an important part of ensuring fairness in lawn mower racing circles!
Lawn Mower Racing Race Categories
There are many different types of lawn mower available, ranging from walk behind mowers (or, for racing purposes, “run behind” mowers) to lawn tractors, and these are all different enough that they are not really comparable and cannot be fairly raced against one another. As such, most lawn mower racing events use four standard classes, with different categories of lawn mower in each one.
The smallest and lightest class of lawn mower for racing is the walk behind (or run behind, when racing!) mower, a category covering all small walk behind powered lawn mowers that do not have seats attached. These are small mowers that most people with smaller lawns tend to own, as they are ideally suited for maneuverability in confined spaces.
The second category of lawn mower races includes towed seat mowers and roller driven mowers. These are medium-sized powered lawn mowers with an engine in the mower part, and a separate seat dragged behind it, with no additional drive provided by this back section. These are relatively unusual lawn mowing tools that not many people own, but they are common enough to be included as their own weight category for lawn mower racing.
Group 3 racing lawn mowers are smaller ride on mowers with wheel based propulsion systems. These are used for larger lawns but are still small enough for domestic use. They are generally smaller and more lightweight than full garden tractors, but still offer a large amount of power, making for relatively intense and powerful lawn mower racing vehicles.
The final category, for the largest mowers, is reserved for full lawn tractors. This category covers any ride on garden tractor with a car style bonnet for access to the engine. These are primarily used for commercial use or mowing more extensive estate lawns, but they make for excellent racing lawn mower choices in most cases. This is the highest power category for lawn mower racing, providing the most speed and intensity of any lawn mower racing category.
In most cases, there are subclasses within each of these four classes, for modified and unmodified lawn mowers. The unmodified lawn mowers must be driven with all of their factory provided elements and no modification to the chassis or engine, while the modified category allows for tinkering and customization to most aspects of the lawn mower, within the regulations. This means that you are not allowed to purpose build a lawn mower specifically for racing, and it must be modified from some commercially available lawn mower body.
Do Racing Lawn Mowers Have Blades?
Mowers used for lawn mower racing never have blades, under any circumstances! The presence of blades on a racing mower would be extremely dangerous, and for your mower to be eligible to race, you need to remove the blades. You should leave the blade deck attached, though, and it should be reinforced to ensure that it can hold your weight securely and does not wobble during driving of your lawn mower at racing speeds.
How Fast do Racing Lawn Mowers Go?
In general, the maximum speed that a racing lawn mower can travel at is exactly the same as the maximum speed of a regular lawn mower. As the engine of a racing lawn mower has to be a lawn mower engine, there is not much that can be done to push it to higher speeds! For the most part, lawn mower races occur at speeds of approximately 6 to 8 miles per hour. This is hardly fast, but it is fast enough to be exciting and entertaining when you are in the middle of an intense lawn mower race!
Safety Gear for Lawn Mower Racing
Lawn mowers might not move particularly fast, but it is still essential to ensure that you wear appropriate safety gear at all times. Most lawn mower races require that you wear a helmet, gloves, neck support, long sleeves, and long pants for your own safety! Protecting yourself from injury during lawn mower racing is vitally important, and you should take every possible precaution to ensure your safety as far as possible before participating in any dangerous sport such as lawn mower racing.
Getting Started with Lawn Mower Racing
Lawn mower racing happens across the world, with racing meets in a wide range of different places. If you live in a particularly distant area you might have to travel for a while in order to find a lawn mower racing meet, but searching for local chapters of the USLMRA is a great first step to take when looking for a local lawn mower racing meet that you can get involved in, or simply watch if you are interested but not yet willing to commit.
The world of lawn mower racing is a surprisingly deep and complex one, with regulations and practices just like those of any other sport. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a serious world only for intense sport fans, though; lawn mower racing is a sport that has always focused on having a low barrier to entry, ensuring that lawn mower racing is an affordable sport that is accessible to anyone that wants to give it a go.
This brief introduction should give you a sense of what the world of lawnmower racing looks like, but if you’re interested it is worth seeking out further information; this is a deeper field than a single article can cover, and there’s lots of other info out there!