BLMRA’S Simon Campbell Returns to America
By Simon Campbell, British Lawn Mower Racing Association
In 2017, to celebrate the USLMRA 25th Anniversary, USLMRA Founding Sponsor STA-BIL brand Fuel Stabilizer brought a team from the British Lawn Mower Racing Association to America for a weekend of racing and camaraderie at the STA-BIL National Lawn Mower Racing Series at the St. Mary’s County National Lawn Mower Races at Bowles Farms in Maryland. BLMRA racer Simon Campbell was part of Team Britain. Here is the story of his triumphant return to America to compete in the March, 2018 STA-BIL Snow Bird Nationals presented by
The week started off on Tuesday 6th March and a short journey down the motorway to Gatwick airport in England. I had to meet another BLMRA Committee Member there who just happens to be a aircraft engineer for Virgin Atlantic, who was going to see me off for what can only be described as a trip of a lifetime.
Once I found Charlie Gould at the check in gate, we quickly went up and checked in. Of course it always helps if you know someone in the trade, and I happily accepted an upgrade to extra legroom for my 9 1/2 hour flight to Orlando. What I didn’t realise at the time was Charlie was going to walk me to the plane (to make sure I did actually leave the country perhaps?).
At the departure gate Charlie happened to bump into someone he knows well and was asked if I had been sorted, of course we both said yes and was happy with my extra leg room, at which the lovely lady said that wouldn’t do and went about upgrading me to premium economy so now I’m beaming… got to love an upgrade.lol!
Once on the plane, I found my seat, I said goodbye to Charlie, and so began 9.5 long hours. Finally I landed in the sunny state of Florida. Once off the plane, I phoned my great friend Angeline to say I’d landed. At which point got shouted at by the security as no phones allowed… once through customs, I was back on the phone to Angeline asking where she and Derrick were going to be collecting me. When she asked me where I was and I didn’t know wasn’t a great help… We finally worked it out and I got to see them… lots of hugs later I was in the truck heading to my new home for the week; and what a home it was it was in Champion’s Gate Davenport Florida.
Once unpacked, I wanted a drink and it had to be Tito’s vodka and a Red bull. Then in the pool for a dip, and then bed. Next morning up early and had a great day at Universal Studios. Hoping to go on all the rides but me being the size I am could only manage a few…lol…. Then Thursday was Busch Gardens, which was also an amazing day. Then I had a very tough decision to make; did I want to go to my first ever NHL hockey game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers or go shopping for my two beautiful daughters back home? It was decided, I needed to get the girls something. So off we went to an outlet park and got some real bargains. Then we got the dreaded phone call that Derrick had gone to the track for practice and had blown a head on his FXT.
So off we went. Of course stopping at McDonalds for food and me scaring the lady half to death due to my beautiful English accent!
Once at the track, I went for a quick walk to see the track that I was to be racing on. Then I came across a nice little fire pit with a few locals sitting around. So of course me being I, had to go and say hello. It was one hell of a night! Lots of beer and laughs. Then finally back to the house at 4.20 am, ready to be back up at 9am to get to the track for 10:00 am start.
Once at the track, one of the first people I had the pleasure of seeing was the lovely Christine; who asked me if I wanted banjo eggs for breakfast… of course! Who could say no to that? And believe me they were great eggs.!!!!! Then signing on and had a bad draw picking out 11th on the grid in a 15 mower race… no practice for me due to young Dylan blowing the transmission on the mower. I need to thank Tommy Hartness for changing it with a new box, so thank you mate…… So the first time I got to go on the mower was the first heat, and wow what a heat! Learning the track and the mower in race conditions was hard. So after a 10-lap heat I came off the track knackered. Believe me, 10 laps on that track is a lot harder than 10 laps of the 12-hour
Then it was time to relax do a few Facebook lives and show England what was happening. And before long it was time for the driver introductions and meeting. Doc Kuhfeldt….. well what a man! I had already been warned that I might have the microphone taken from me and he didn’t let me down….well done Doc!
Then the feature race 11th again and 20 laps to complete well I thought I was going to die…..by lap 15 I was in bits. Luckily for me, but very unfortunate for Mr. Randy Gandy, he decided to fall of in a spectacular roll. The race was stopped, giving me time to have a rest..lol I sound like such a wimp! Thankfully Randy was OK. But then it was time to complete the race. A 2 lap dash to the flag! Lining up the mower on the rolling lap, thinking how to make up the places; I got a plan. If a gap opens up on the inside, go for it tight and hold on and see how many places I can make. So the flag drops, and going around the first corner the mower in front goes slightly wide. Great, I think, and I go for it! Unfortunately by the time I get there, the gap is no more! Causing me to hit the mower in front and my mower dug in to the track. I was along for the ride, the only problem was I was no longer on the mower and some height in the air thinking to myself this is going to hurt……. and it did once landed I was quickly back on my feet. Fully aware there were mowers behind me and could run me over. Unfortunately for the mower I hit, he also rolled and ended up on his back on the track…..sorry Mark…..
Obviously the reds came out, and I got the mower off the track as soon as possible. With everyone running over to me and Mark to check, we were OK. Luckily, we both were OK, apart from mark had a few bruises, and I thought I’d dislocated my thumb. Which I popped back in, much to the disgust of Kerry….haha! The race finished without me. I was back in the pits being mothered by Angeline with ice and pads and more importantly Tito’s vodka and Redbull to help the pain.
Once racing was finished, it was back to the house for more pain killing alcohol, then to bed as another day of racing was ahead of me….. Back to the track we went Saturday morning. My hand the size of a soccer ball, but wasn’t going to let it stop me from racing having travelled 7,000 miles to do so. So lots of pain killers (Tylenol and Motrin cocktails), and a hand splint later. I then had the problem of trying to fit a glove over said hand…..my good friend Andy Clabough was kind enough to cut his racing glove up, so I could fit it over the splint.
Not knowing if I would be able to race because of the pain, practice came around. And again, I couldn’t go out because this time I had left my race trousers back at the house. All this after drawing 2nd on the grid. Unbelievable! So, still not knowing if I could race, and once my trousers had arrived, it was time to race. At this point Wes, the track owner decided it was time to water the track…… much to my pleasure as I love a wet track, but as y’all know, you don’t race in the wet. So the GP mowers had to do 10 laps rolling to dry it. What no one had told me about my mower is, it doesn’t like to run on tick over or slowly. So, once the flag had dropped, and I throttled away the engine had loaded up and I went from 2nd to last before the first corner! Oh that made me feel good…lol…but it seemed to stop the pain in my hand, as I was so angry! Again, didn’t do to well, but I had the best time….. Then the rain came in and it decided it wasn’t going to go away despite all of the very hard work for Wes and the track staff. It was decided to not run the feature race. Which gave me time to go to Walmart and buy a few things.
Once back to the track, it was time for food and my God was it good food! The very best of everything! I couldn’t get enough. Then prize giving time. Shannon Pate had made me the most amazing trophies, and I had pleasure in accepting it from him. Well done Shannon for not crying! Then, another trophy, this time from The Avon Park Mower Plex for the furthest drive, and a special award from Christine for the best egg recipe. A new Avon Park cup full of very stong vodka and redbull!
Then it was time to show Avon Park a new dance….big fish little fish! Well Matt, you didn’t let the side down with your amazing moves…..hahaha.. So, to the end of the night, it was time to say goodbye to all my new friends. Very emotional goodbyes, but a weekend I will never forget for the rest of my life! Everyone at the track made me feel so welcome and wanted, it was a pleasure.
The next day was hard… having to say goodbye to my second family Robbin Dreams. Without them, this weekend would not have been possible, ever! Angeline and Derrick are two of the nicest people I know. So the long drive to the airport was a very hard one. With both Angeline and me continually crying, only stopping to eat the most amazing steak ever. Then to the airport for our see you laters. As it was never going to be goodbye!
On the plane and back to ‘Ole Blighty……back to work and normal day to day stuff but one problem! My hand still hadn’t got and better so after two weeks of being back I decided to go to the hospital for an xray only to find that my thumb had snapped at the joint and needed to be repaired! So here I am, four weeks after falling off the mower with my hand in plaster after having an operation to repair it…….see something I’ll never forget!
Thank you all every single person that was at the Avon Park Mower Plex for the STA-BIL Snow Bird National’s it was a weekend i will never forget!
British Lawn Mower Racing Association
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