Invented in 1973 by Brits put off from the high cost of getting started in motorsports, the sport of lawn mower racing offers a unique and fun take on competitive racing. The sport is currently practiced in the U.K., Australia and the United States. To gain a fresh perspective on local sports, consider adding a race to your bucket list for upcoming vacations.
In the United States, there are two major series of events: The STA-BIL and the U.S. Open, which are held together on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend (typically early September). Qualifying STA-BIL races are held throughout the year, with the best racers competing in the Finals event Labor Day weekend.
The 2013 Winter Nationals will be held at the Florida State Fair in Tampa in February, which offers travelers the chance to take in the sport during a vacation to one of Florida’s most vibrant cities. Other 2013 events occur across the southern, Midwest and western states, with events in Utah, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Louisiana, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Michigan. The U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association provides additional details on both series. FoxSportsNet broadcasts the event, so you can watch online for a little taste of mower sports.
From June to September, the Wilkes Country Agricultural Fairground near Fayetteville, North Carolina offers Saturday night races on an oval dirt track. Crowds vary from hundreds of local fans to thousands during the summer months, so be prepared for a real slice of southern living should you attend. Racers must qualify with a speed of 30 miles per hour to compete in the 15-mile race. Twelve Mile, Indiana holds an annual July 4 race called the Twelve Mile 500, which is open to four-cycle Briggs mowers and modified lawn mowers.
Australia boasts four mower sports clubs in Brisbane, Nowra, Sunshine Coast and Victoria. The clubs put on local races throughout the year, including combination motocross and mower racing events. With a local spirit, Australian mower sports events really give you a glimpse into the community.
Events regularly occur across Europe, particularly in the U.K., Belgium and Luxembourg. The British Lawn Mower Racing Association provides a list of upcoming events and also hosts regular “Noggin ‘n Natter” evenings that give folks a chance to learn more about racing and to mingle with racers.
Unlike go-karting, which sometimes uses mower engines to power vehicles, lawnmower racing relies on both the body and the engine of the mower. Racers typically use modified riding mowers, such as those from manufacturer Briggs & Strattons. Drivers make their own modifications to increase the mowers speed, typically replacing mower pulleys and belts to alter the final drive ratio. Riding mowers also require a tethered kill switch, which automatically turns off the mower if a rider gets thrown during a race. Additionally, lawn mower blades are removed before racing for safety. The sports offers different classes, some of which require unaltered engines and some of which allow drivers to modify mower engines.
The mowers may be raced around flat tracks or off road. To stay safe, drivers wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, helmets, neck support and gloves. While you don’t have to be a race car driver to get started in lawn mower racing, it helps: Many of the sports’ participants have raced cars before trying mower races.
When traveling to see a mower race, don’t forget to take along your camera to capture fun photos for the folks back home. If you attend, you just may be inspired to give this sport a try.
Kristine blogs on behalf of Sears and other brands she uses.