Guernsey Press

Lawnmower racers battle French mud for first place

A team of lawnmower racers triumphed at a recent event in France after riding for 18 hours and completing more than 1,000 laps of a muddy course.

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Billy Rive during one leg of the team’s 1,001 laps in the French mud. (Picture supplied)

The Channel Islands Lawnmower Racing Association was founded by Peter Merrien 10 years ago and will be celebrating its birthday at the West Show in August.

It has taken part in races in the UK and France, as well as in Finland, where members were part of a 12-hour endurance challenge on ice.

At the recent event in France, held in Nouvion-sur-Meuse, in the Ardennes, Guernsey riders Mr Merrien, James Le Cheminant, Christopher Druce, Billy Rive and Ricky Rive were joined by three men from the UK.

Each rider would usually be in the seat for an hour, but Mr Le Cheminant said the course was so muddy that the mower had to stop every 30 minutes to have mud cleared and the riders did half-hour shifts.

‘We took our own lawnmower over. Luckily my brother kindly loaned us his Ford Transit van and we could get the mower in the back,’ he said.

The machine was modified to make it more powerful. It features a V-Twin engine which Mr Le Cheminant said was about 20 horsepower, more than double the usual. Its wheels are a different size as well.

It could get up to speeds approaching 60mph on a good surface, but in practice is more likely to run at around 35-45mph.

While previous events have seen races involving up to 100 teams, this one was smaller, with 35, and Mr Le Cheminant said the track was quite small compared to others they have visited.

As well as battling mud, they faced mechanical issues.

‘We needed a few pit stops to repair things.

‘The bearings gave way so we swapped those out, we had a couple of punctures, and the chain had to be changed too.’

The winner was the team which completed the most laps in a set period of time.

‘They cut it short from 24 hours to 18 hours because the weather had got so bad,’ said Mr Le Cheminant.

By then, the CI team had managed 1,001 laps, with their nearest rival reaching 461.

In keeping with the quirky nature of the competition, first prize was a trophy cobbled together from parts resembling a turkey, and a live guinea fowl.

While keeping the turkey trophy, Mr Le Cheminant said the team decided to give the real bird to one of the French teams.

The racers will be back in action in a few weeks’ time at an event in the UK.

Mr Le Cheminant will have to miss that one, but is hoping to get to another 24-hour race the week after.

‘It’s just a good laugh really,’ he said.

‘We have a good group of guys we go in with and it’s a lot of fun.’