Lawn mower racing cuts through to new community of revheads with need for speed

Lawn mower racing is a far cry from the glitz and glamour of Formula One but the niche motorsport is taking off across Australia. 

The All Australian Ride-On Mower Racing championship returned to Forbes, in the New South Wales central west, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. 

The tournament provided Victorian racing driver Ray Mackay an opportunity to showcase the sport to some bewildered spectators. 

“Those that haven’t seen anything of it before, they can’t quite get their head around it,” he said. 

Ray Mackay (right) and his son Ashley have been racing for nine years. (ABC Central West: Hamish Cole)

In reality, these souped-up lawn mowers reach speeds of 100 kilometres per hour. 

From the pub to the track 

Lawn mower racing first began in Australia in 1988 after a disagreement between five friends outside a country pub in Harrietville, Victoria. 

What followed was a race downhill in the group’s unmodified lawn mowers.

Australian Ride-On Lawn Mower Racing Association organiser Di Millsteed said the sport had come a long way since then. 

“There are now clubs in Western Australia, South Australia, all down the east coast and even Tasmania.” 

Four people riding lawn mowers on a dirt track
It costs less than $1,000 to turn a lawn mower into a racing vehicle. (ABC Central West: Hamish Cole)

Almost 100 drivers competed in the championship, making it the largest event in the sport’s history. 

Ms Millsteed said it was a testament to the support within the racing community. 

“There is a sense of family that comes with this sport [as] it is somewhat of a niche event at the moment,” she said. 

Back with a bang 

With the racing community spread across Australia, the pandemic put the brakes on almost all events. 

Ms Millsteed said this made this year’s championship all the more special.

“COVID certainly put a dampener on things over the last couple of years but it is great to be out here. 

Three lawn mowers racing on a dirt track
The blades of the lawn mowers are removed prior to racing. (ABC Central West: Hamish Cole)

It is a sentiment echoed by Fiona Meldrum, who travelled from northern New South Wales to make it. 

“Where we are from, it is still muddy and sloshy, so it is great to be on a track where we can actually go and have a great time,” she said. 

“Everyone is just so excited to be here. The feeling is wonderful.” 

While everyone was hoping to finish on the podium, Ms Millsteed said there was something more important on the line. 

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