The worlds of Formula One and lawn mower racing may be at opposite ends of a wide spectrum, but two things immediately became apparent when the Sky Sports F1 team, accompanied by current Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen, were introduced to this marginally cheaper form of motor sport. One: a racer is a racer is a racer. Two: they had seriously underestimated just how demanding this seemingly innocuous pastime can be.
The meeting of the grass roots of the sport and the pinnacle of four-wheeled competition had come about after Sky Sports F1 had decided racing some slightly unusual machinery might make an interesting piece in their build up to the British GP. Thus four lawn mowers were duly provided by the BLMRA for the use of Sky commentators and former F1 drivers Martin Brundle, Anthony Davidson and Johnny Herbert, as well as Räikkönen, due to turn up later in the morning.
This was not to be a contrived piece of ‘racing’ footage, made to look like genuine competition for the benefit of the cameras, however. From the outset it was clear that the three Sky Sports F1 colleagues were prepared to go balls out, to get the measure of mower racing and, above all, to beat one another, not least Johnny Herbert who more than once nearly wiped out the camera crew taking the bends a little too quickly.
Despite a relatively smooth track provided courtesy of Whittlebury Park Golf & Country Club, the combination of their inherent desire to win and an absence of any suspension slowly took its toll. With Brundle eventually retiring with a back injury and Herbert and Davidson suffering from blisters, the hardened racers expressed deep admiration for anyone prepared to race a mower for much more than a few laps; certainly there was incredulity that it was possible to complete a 12 Hour race. Yet their realisation that lawn mower racing can be addictive was immediately evident from the broad grins all round.
Meanwhile, the feeling of Messrs Brundle, Davidson and Herbert was that Kimi would take one look at what was being proposed and would turn round and head back to his motorhome. The BLMRA members were of much the same opinion. After all, he did have a British GP to contest, not to mention the remainder of the season, and surely Ferrari wouldn’t let him do anything so foolhardy? Headlines of ‘Räikkönen injured in freak lawn mower accident’ all too readily sprang to mind.
How wrong we all were. The Finn strolled up in his typical laid back way, said no more than he had to say, jumped on his allocated mower and was instantly away, racing, without the benefit of any practice. And making it all look so simple.
He also took the chequered flag, helped by a timely nudge to a threatening Herbert, only for his fellow competitors to claim later he had the benefit of superior machinery!
Following a Martin Brundle interview to camera, Kimi departed and once again the team’s enthusiasm for lawn mower racing became very apparent as both Davidson and Herbert went back out on track, this time joined by commentators David Croft and Simon Lazenby.
It was left to Le Mans veteran and current Toyota endurance driver Anthony Davidson – who broke his back in a horrendous accident at the French circuit – to sum up the morning’s experience: “I think it’s true to say that we all were taken aback at how tough lawn mower racing is and how much respect we have for those who participate. I’m used to travelling at over 200mph down the Mulsanne Straight but you do that sitting in relative comfort.
“Yet it’s also tremendous fun and I think our antics out on track clearly demonstrated that!”
The video from the day can be viewed by clicking - HERE
Pictures taken on the by Pugs Reeves can be seen by clicking - HERE