Oddly Enough

Lawnmower race trimmed by economic woes

HORNDEAN, Hampshire (Reuters) - An annual lawnmower race has become a sporting victim of recession-hit Britain this summer, trimmed down to four hours from its usual 12 hours.

Organisers struggled with entries for the annual race with only 21 teams signing up which is half the amount as last year. They were forced to reorganise and shorten the event.

“When we consulted all the teams, they just didn’t have the money in order to do a full 12 hours this year but they wanted to do a race of some description,” Mark Constanduros, chairman of the British Lawn Mower Racing Association, told Reuters Television.

The event, held over a circuit measuring about 548 metres, involves different classes of modified lawnmowers: traditional with seat, buggy, and the more popular mini-tractors.

Whatever the class, the racing mowers take months of work to prepare for the event but it’s harder for the racers to prepare themselves for the bumps along the course.

“Arms, legs, back, neck, even my nose is sore where my goggles rub, but I still keep doing it, I don’t know why!” said racer Graham Harvey.

The sport itself dates back to 1973 when Irishman Jim Gavin became disillusioned with the costs of motorsports so decided from his seat in the Cricketers Arms pub in Wisborough Green, West Sussex, to create a cheap, accessible form of motorsport.

Interest grew in the mid 1970s when former racing driver Stirling Moss was attracted to the sport by the club atmosphere and fun of racing.

The first 12-hour lawnmower race was held in 1978 when the winning team included Stirling Moss and his facing driver partner Derek Bell, the five-time Le Mans winner.

Another well known enthusiast of the sport was the late actor Oliver Reed.

In more recent years the sport has gone global with racing also held in the United States, Australia, Holland, Luxemburg and Germany.

Organisers said they hoped to reinstate the 12-hour race next year.

Reporting by Reuters Television, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith