Andrew Dalley has been zooming around on his lawnmower most weekends this year.
“I’ve been racing since February,” says Andrew.
“On the first Sunday of each month, I’ve been going to Cambridge to race. Our local club is based there, on a guy’s farm.”
His local club, the Bay of Plenty Lawn Mower Racing Club, would like to meet on the Tauranga side of the Kaimai Range, but need a place for members to race.
“We’re trying to find a two-acre paddock so we can race here,” he says.
“We want Tauranga people to be able to watch us. We’re always going over to the Waikato to race, but we want to bring it over this side of the hill.
“We need somewhere flat with a bit of grass – we’ll cut it up anyway. In Cambridge, when we’re not racing on the guy’s farm, he puts the cows into it and then brings them out a few days before we race there again.”
Andrew has wanted a racing lawn mower since he was young.
“I grew up around speedway. I moved into Tauranga and I always wanted a racing ride-on.”
He went to Omokoroa to have a look at one and decided to buy his own.
“It’s like a big go-kart. We have safety gear, helmet, gloves, a neck brace and a tether that kills the motor if you fall off.”
A racing lawn mower sits close to the ground, and unlike a traditional lawn mower, is unable to cut grass.
“We lower them,” he explains. “There is no blade on them. We drop them right down to about two inches off the ground.”
The Bay of Plenty Lawn Mower Racing club has over 20 members who have participated in events in Omokoroa, Cambridge, Taranaki and Te Puke.
Women, and children over the age of 12 are also encouraged to race.
“We did a display at Motumaoho School in Morrinsville last weekend. It was quite a drawcard for the school, and we’ve been invited back to their gala again next year,” says Andrew.
“I got a bit of damage last Sunday out at the Omokoroa School Lawnmower day.
“I was there as Spiderlocks.”
Spiderlocks is Spiderman with dreadlocks attached to the helmet.
“I got too hot so I took it all off. Someone else dressed up as a Muppet.”
The family-oriented club enjoy entertaining the public with their racing.
In his late 40s, when Andrew isn’t racing a lawnmower or having quality family time, he works as a welder fabricator and is building a Class 2 model lawnmower for his son Hayden, who has just had his 21st birthday.
There are various classes of racing lawn mowers.
“We don’t use lifestyle lawn mowers,” says Andrew, who has been around motor sport all his life. “They are too high and roll too easy. We have racing lawn mowers, which are hotted up.”
The mowers have engines originally manufactured for lawnmowers, and may be internally and externally modified.
Class 1 modified mowers have engines up to 28ci, with a flat head single cylinder. There are limits to the external modification, with owners required to retain a factory intact manifold and a single barrel lawnmower carburettor. A Class 2 modified mower has up to a 32 ci single or twin cylinder and Class 3 has up to and over 32 ci single or twin cylinder.
Tracing back through the history of lawn mower racing, it seems the first recorded lawn mower races took place in 1963, in Twelve Mile, Indiana in America. According to the North-West Lawn Mower racing Association of the USA, qualifying for the first race saw an average speed around the oval track of 9.97mph, with the race itself being won by Phil Eckelbarger of Peru.
New Zealand’s first mower racer event was held in 2003 at Omokoroa No. 1 School as part of their school gala. Since then, the sport and the performance of the mowers has grown every year.
Mower racing events are now held in the Bay of Plenty, Hamilton and Taranaki regions. The New Zealand Lawn Mower Racing Association was formed in 2010 to provide governance for the sport in New Zealand.
Andrew is very happy with the colour that his wife Marie chose for his mower.
“It’s painted the same colour as my car,” he says. “I told Marie not to get red paint. Any colour except red. I don’t like Holdens and they’re red.
“I’m a Ford boy, so it came back as blue.
“She works on Sunday afternoons, but she likes to come and watch me race when she can.
“I just do it for the fun. Everyone just goes out and has fun.”
Anyone with flat farm land in the Tauranga area available for the Bay of Plenty Lawn Mower Racing Club can contact them through their website at: www.boplmrc.co.nz