They say it gets easier the more times you do it – I am not sure that’s right.
It was the 20th time that I had covered this unique race but I have to say camping in a field with 43 lawn mowers racing around can leave you lacking some sleep. My 13 year old son loved it – what’s not to like…. speed, engines, racing, crazy wonderful people… and yes …..the camping bit!
Motor sport doesn’t get much stranger than lawn mower racing, but to its hard-core devotees it is so much more than just a weekend pastime.
43 teams lined up for the highlight of the British and World’s Lawn Mower sporting calendar – the annual 12 hour Endurance Race – in the English village of Five Oaks.
This race is the pinnacle of the sports surprisingly busy racing calendar, and this year newbies to the sport and seasoned drivers alike, battled through the night to claim top honours.
At 8 pm Jim Gavin, the founder of lawn mower racing in 1973, lowered the flag to the delight of race goers who came along to see this very British spectacle.
The race commenced with the traditional Le Mans grid formation with the drivers running to their machines for the start. Prior to the start, a water bowser was set to work dampening the circuit to minimise dust, after the hot dry conditions but this made the circuit very slippery for the initial laps before it dried out. As darkness descended the circuit becomes a sea of light and the night is punctuated by mower headlamps streaking past and the distinctive hum of the machines.
12 hours of racing is hard enough, but the majority of the race is completed in darkness to make it technically more of a challenge, with each team fielding three drivers who swap around to combat fatigue, there is also a support team in the pits.
As dusk turned to night, the pit lanes became a hive of activity as mowers came in for refuelling, driver changeover, cleaning and repairs. Many breakdowns ensued but amazingly, most of the mowers were still in the race as the hours marched past.
5 times champions the wonderfully named “Northerners Kick Grass” from West Yorkshire, led from the first lap and built up a 9-lap lead. But there was a twist this year – 20 minutes from the finish they experienced a catastrophic steering problem, which sent them into the pits for repairs and ended their dream of another win.
In the end the victorious team was number 2 – “Les Lux Pussies” a team from Luxembourg who made history as the first overseas team to win this prestigious event. They completed 430 laps in the allotted 12 hours and as a bonus also achieved the fastest lap time of 1:30:14.
It may not be Formula 1, but in the world of lawn mower racing it doesn’t get much better than this. But perhaps next year I’ll hire a campervan….might be a tad more comfortable.