49 Lawnmowers took to the field for the 2017 edition of the race
(Photo from: www.adamguthrie65.com)
Each August dozens of lawnmowers descend on a field in the West Sussex countryside the 12 Hour Lawn Mower, surely one of Britain’s wackiest, but most brilliant ideas. Before we move onto last weekend’s race, let’s look at the history of the sport and where it all began.
Since the concept of Lawnmower racing was conceived in 1973 by Jim Gavin as he watched a groundsman mow the cricket pitch outside the Wisbourough Green pub he was drinking in. Gavin had just returned from a rallying event in the desert and was becoming increasingly disgruntled with the amount of money it was costing him and other competitors to go rallying. His aim was to create a racing sport which was easily accessible for all, which is where lawnmower racing was born.
The plan was simple, no sponsorship, no cash prizes and no engine upgrades, all ensuring a fun, accessible and fair sport. These morals are still present today.
At first the competitor would run behind their mower so in essence, whoever had the fastest run won, though motorised mowers quickly caught on. These would be eventually called Group 2, with push mowers named Group 1. In time Group 1 phased out as more the powerful Group 3 and eventually Group 4 mowers were introduced and the idea of people pushing a mower around a course at the same time as Group 3 and Group 4 mowers became rather daunting.
The First 12 hour lawn mower race was held in 1978 and over the years the race has seen many famous faces included Sir Stirling Moss, 5-time Le Mans Winner, Derek Bell and in more recent times TT ace Guy Martin. In this time, the only occasions where the race has not been run have been caused by bad weather, most recently in 2012.
Since 2012 the race has been won by Northerners Kick Grass and this year saw the team aim for a fifth consecutive victory, an amazing record. They would be once again hounded down by Les’s Lux from Luxembourg whose driver roster included the Group 4 world champion, Going Commando and Deadbull Racing. Group 3 also had a strong field with Who’s Racing and Very Sideways both aiming for overall honours as well as class.
The race begins the traditional Le Mans way, running to your machine after the flag is dropped. The beginning of the race has also seen its fair share of famous faces, with the likes or Warwick Davis and Jodie Kidd starting this prestigious event.
As the flag was dropped this year it was Les’s Lux who got the best start followed by Northerners Kick Grass (NGK) however the race all unfolded as soon as the first lap for Going Commando. Technical issues blighted the #3 machine from the get go costing the team any chance of victory. This didn’t stop Les’s Lux though who quickly pulled out a lead to NGK with Who’s Racing in third.
It was a fascinating first hour as many drivers started the BBQs as the smell of bacon and sausages floated round the venue and on track it was great too, though not for Les’s Lux as the #2 machine hit trouble 30 minutes in, dropping back hugely and into second behind NKG.
Northerners Kick Grass quickly pulled out a lead over the chasing pack, an ominous sign for the rest of the race. 2017 was proving to be a lawnmower killer as many teams struggled in the early stages such as “Trac as Team” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ginger”.
In the end nine teams would fail to make the finish, with French team MVYC retiring with just 55 minutes from the finish.
As the second hour begun Going Commando hit trouble once more just as they had worked their way back up to eleventh. This stoppage would prove to be much more costly, with the team eventually finishing 58 laps down in 18th. The order stayed the same at the front for 30 minutes until the second round of pitstops with Les’s Lux hoping to make the undercut (pun most definitely intended) work. However NGK were far too strong and were able to stop later than their rivals, pitting for a second time at the 1 hour and 45 minute mark.
With two hours gone the order was as follows: NGK, Les’s Lux, Average Joes, Very Sideways Racing and Who’s Racing completing the top 5.
At this point I lost signal with the race (I fell asleep, SORRY!) however as morning broke NGK remained in the lead.
With just 90 minutes of light at the start of the race and a further two hours of light at the end before the race finishes at 8am on Sunday morning, teams must battle both competitors and tiredness to win.
This is something Northerners Kick Grass have perfected as they went onto win the 12 Lawnmower Race for the fifth year in a row followed by Les’s Lux, who for the fourth year in succession achieved the fasted lap. Average Joes completed the podium places.
Lawnmower racing is a sport that is only going from strength to strength and has a family friendly atmosphere which is completely down to earth. Today, drivers compete all over Europe as well as Australia, there is even ice lawnmower racing in Finland! So wherever you are find out where your next event it and go on down and watch some proper no nonsense racing!