Grassroots Motorsport

May 17, 2021

One of the brilliant features of British motorsport is the world of grassroots motorsport, and by that we literally mean racing on grass…..

Yes, grass racing is a sensational motorsport for people with no money, no politics and an extreme sense of the eccentric. Lawnmower racing is one of the most celebrated forms of amateur motorsport in Great Britain and has been a part of British motorsport since 1973 in the South East, North West and the Midlands. Alongside it is also a discipline of karting that runs purely on grass. With only three major kart clubs in the country to adopt the discipline, grass track karting is enjoyed by a keen community of enthusiasts for over 50 years based in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

Plus there’s autograss racing on short oval fields, and car and sporting trials with the British Trial and Rally Drivers Association, and of course you can’t forget rally cross. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go grass tracking!

BRITISH LAWNMOWER RACING ASSOCIATION (BLMRA)

A few chaps at The Cricketers’ Arms in Wisborough Green decided it would be great fun to go racing on lawnmowers and back in 1973 the sport began and quickly grew. Even stars such as Sir Stirling Moss, John Watson and Derek Bell have competed in the sport. The sport is split into sprint and endurance racing just like the worlds of karting and sportscars, and the teams are just as partisan. They take the sport very seriously and teams and drivers come over from France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg to compete in the country’s top events such as the BLMRA 12 Hours at Wisborough Green in Billingshurst every August, the Four Hour Double Dip at Reservoir Farm also in Billingshurst at the end of June and the World Championships at Buck Green near Horsham in the Autumn, all being run in West Sussex, the headquarters of the club.

The championship races at various locations through the season, travelling to Ridge Farm at Capel in Surrey, the Selwood Vintage Rally in Wiltshire, Sharnfold Farm at Pevensey near Eastbourne, Heddington & Stockley Steam Fair in Wiltshire, Codicote Village Day in Hertfordshire, Cheddar in Somerset, Braintree in Essex and Luton in Bedfordshire.

NORTH WEST LAWNMOWER RACING ASSOCIATION (NWLMRA)

Not to be outdone, in the North West of England the sport of lawnmower racing is also growing and has some incredible competitors. The club is home to the reigning champions of the BLMRA 12H race at Wisborough Green – “Northerners Kick grASS”. The team has won the event every year since 2013 with five wins in a row, and bidding for a sixth in 2018. The signature event for the NWLMRA is the 6 Hour Enduro at Retford in Nottinghamshire every October.

The club races at Ludlow in Shropshire, Thornton Hall near Skipton in Yorkshire, Kirkham near Preston in Lancashire, the Scorton Steam Show in Lancashire, the Kelsall Steam & Vintage Rally near Chester, the Ackworth Steam Rally near Pontefract in Yorkshire, the Cumbria Steam Gathering at Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria, Willingham-by-Stow near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, Shack Fest at Nuneaton in Warwickshire before concluding at Retford for the 6 Hour.

WEST MIDLANDS LAWNMOWER RACING ASSOCIATION (WMLMRA)

Racing lawnmowers is popular in the West Midlands too with the ever popular WMLMRA 555 Enduro providing the centrepiece for an amiable and friendly environment for British grassroots motorsports. The 555 Enduro is so called because it lasts 5 hours and 55 minutes, and takes place every June at Ludlow in Shropshire.

The West Midlands branch of British lawnmower racing visits several locations alongside the 555 predominantly in Worcestershire, including Dunley near Stourport-on-Severn and at Palmers Meadow, The Baiting House and Southern Park Farm, both in Tenbury Wells. The championship also races at Clifton-upon-Teme and Whitbourne both in Worcestershire before finishing the season at Much Cowarne near Hereford.

GRASS TRACK KARTING

A great starting point for amateurs and petrolheads alike, grass track karting is a brilliant stepping stone to multiple disciplines of motorsport. The sport began in the 1950s when famous Spitfire test pilot Alex Henshaw started organising kart races with Austin Monks at a farm near Leverton located in Boston, Lincolnshire. The sport grew quickly and now there are multiple clubs who organise races for this delightfully entertaining sport.

Grass karting takes place at Coningsby and District Kart Club, Bourne Kart Club and Wisbech and District Kart Racing Club. The karts raced are very similar to those of road karting, albeit with nosecones and bodykits removed and with specially adaptable tyres to off-road racing.

NATIONAL AUTOGRASS SPORT ASSOCIATION

Oval racing in a grass field across 52 clubs around Great Britain and Ireland? Sounds like fun.

And it really is some of the most intense racing you’ll see on a 400m course. Mainly taking place on farm fields, this is a sport for eccentric speed freaks. From the basic Class 1 machines of 1000cc, up to the monsters in Class 7 powered by anything from motorbike engines to V8s, the action is guaranteed to be astounding. With up to eight cars starting on a straight line starting grid, when the tape goes up in the style of speedway riding the action begins in heats between 4 and 10 laps.

There are 11 classes in all and separate competitions for male and female racers, although there are many racers who believe gender and segregation have no place in motorsport. We agree. So plenty of women compete in the men’s class.

Junior competitors either race in Junior Specials, a modified version of the buggies raced in Classes 8-10, or in a Class 1 machine and start competing from the age of 12.

BTRDA CAR TRIALS

Picture yourself in a car on a hillside with a passenger, also known as the “bouncer” as you negotiate a series of tests against the clock. And it’s your everyday normal road car too.

Car Trials are quite a unique test of skill and perseverance and strategy is as much a part of sheer speed and performance. It’s quite a thrill-seekers sport and if you’re very lucky, you can even drive to the event, use the car in the trials and then drive home again, without even telling your mother-in-law where you’ve been with her car………

BTRDA SPORTING TRIALS

Sporting Trials take things to a whole new level of intelligent strategic driving. Speed is not really the name of the game, as these 2 wheel-drive machines need a particularly unique type of discipline for both driver and passenger.

The objective is to drive your car as far as possible over a marked course without coming to a halt. Twisty poles up a treacherous hillside makes for quite a task, and some parts will be so boggy that even getting out and pushing wouldn’t help. Your passenger becomes your greatest asset at various points on the course as they will shift their bodyweight around the car and over the wheels to aid traction and create downforce and ballast at the perfect moment.

The further you manage, the lower the score you achieve, and just like golf whoever has the lowest score is declared the victor. And in Sporting Trials not only are the best drivers awarded but so too are the passengers, with separate championships for both.

RALLYCROSS

Rallycross is the missing link between circuit racing and rallying, and involves learning how to slide about off-road (and occasionally on grass). Whilst most people are aware of the World and British RX Championships, it’s hard to know where one would start, but the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championships are ultimately the best people to talk to.

Running since 1977, the Clubmans RX classes cater for everything from the coupe to the hatchback, from the classic Subaru Impreza to the modern Mini Cooper, and with racing at Pembrey, Croft and Blyton Park amongst its locations its a perfect starting point to the rally cross star’s career, or if you want a better grounding to prepare for circuit racing you won’t have to stretch your nerves to a tougher biting point than you do in rally cross.

There are competitions for senior and junior competitors, as well as specialist classes for certain types of car or rally cross-specific machinery.

 

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