As most of you know, the RobbinDreams Motorsports team headed East, across the big pond this summer to visit those crazy British guys that we met last summer in Maryland, as well as race the British Lawn Mower Racing Association’s 12 hour Lawn Mower race. The Robinson’s also made plans to tour around and visit with several mower racing families while there. It was a trip of a lifetime for our whole family; something that we would all do again in a heartbeat!
We left the United States on a plane around 4:00pm on Wednesday before the race, it was most of our very first airplane flight EVER, all of our very first international flight. To say that it was going to be interesting was an understatement, I thought before we left. As it turns out, it was uneventful on all accounts. We arrived at the London Gatwick airport shortly after 7:00am, there time on Thursday. Simon Campbell, our British guy from last year met us at the airport, he had agreed to let Derrick follow him around in our rental car (which was upgraded to an SUV as soon as I explained to the company we were there to Lawn Mower race!)
Upon leaving the airport, we were starving. Simon showed us to a nice English cafe for breakfast, Billy’s On The Road; which would be a staple place to eat for us the rest of our trip there. Not being a fan of breakfast, unless it consists of gravy biscuits and grits, I opted for lunch every day. It was the best option for us, and their food was great. We left Billy’s and headed toward the 12-hour field, which was just a couple of miles down on the same road. Upon entering the 12-hour field, we were greeted with many familiar faces. I immediately felt at home, as did Dylan. Derrick, Simon, and Hayleigh left Dylan and me in the field while they ran errands. Dylan wanted to help, he was seeing many of the teams pitch in to set the track up. Glyn Sauders, who sent his love to the Brown family up in Maryland, took Dylan out into the field to help. Soon after Dylan and Glyn finished their duties, Stuart Johnson (Kiwi), who sent his best regards to The Rocket Man Racing team, came to visit. Dylan asked if he could help Stuart, he agreed, and away they went. I continued making rounds, just visiting with Mr. Pete Hammerton, Mr. Charlie Gould, Mr. Mark Akeroyd, Mr. Les Pantry, Ian Tanswell, Pugs, and meeting many others who would quickly become a huge part of our lives!
Once Derrick and Simon arrived back at the field, more teams had made there way in, and it was nearing dinner (tea) time. We all decided on pizza; we ordered takeout pizza and had dinner with the Dead Bull Racing team, Mark Jaffe (owner of Phoenix Motorcycle Training, a large sponsor for the BLMRA), and his granddaughter Katie all sitting around the pits sharing experiences from our native lands with each other. We then headed to our room for the night.
Friday morning we had to report to the track to set our pits up, perform assigned teamwork duties, and socialize. We were also able to meet two of Simon’s beautiful daughters, Lauryn, and Sian who I have adored for the year that we have known him. Simon had us an amazing team banner made and some pretty cool racing shirts for the guys all with our team name on them. We handled all of that and then packed it in. Instead of hanging around for the pit festivities, we headed over to Simon’s parents home for the evening to have dinner with all of them and one of Simon’s brothers and his lovely wife. It was a relaxing, enjoyable, fun evening. Truly a great visit!
Saturday, it was down to business… it was RACE DAY! We didn’t eat at Billy’s this day, Simon cooked banjo eggs (for them, fried for me!), and bacon on his pit BBQ (grill). It was wonderful! We then were able to meet our 3rd teammate who stepped in last minute to race with us due to our other teammate having a family emergency, Darren Tebbutt! We sent the Mower and safety equipment through tech (scrutineering). All systems were MOW at that point. The guys went out for practice and qualifying on the mower. It was great! Mr. Jim Gavin, the founder of Lawn Mower Racing was in attendance, and it was truly a special time being able to see him again. As the time neared, the excitement mounted. I thought to myself, “We are really doing this! We really just flew halfway around the world to come race in a 12 hour Lawn Mower race, just for fun!” “We really are as crazy as everyone says!”
Picture credit: Jason Ingold
8:00 pm came, it was MOW time! Simon started us out on the mower. The track was wet, slippery, and quite bumpy. There were lots of spills, bumps, slips, and a few rollovers during the beginning few laps. Our goal during those beginning laps was to figure out how much time each person could put on the Mower without running out of gas. Simon made it through all of that madness then it was Derrick’s, then Darren’s turn… Derrick goes out as the sky darkens, it was quite hard to see them, it surely had to be hard to see on the race track. The night track would not be illuminated by standard race track lights. It would be lit up by the lights on each of the mowers, the lights coming from each pit tent, and the tall 2 story race control tower in the center of the track. The only way that I could keep up with which Mower was ours on the track was by the headlights. We had a few problems with our headlights, which caused them to be repositioned a couple times; this, in turn, had us relearning what our headlights looked like. It was an adventure. Mr. Jim popped in during the night to deliver some BLMRA goodies to us. It was quite special to me. Although I didn’t have my brothers Tommy and Justin with me, I did keep our usual race track tradition alive; I grilled steaks for the team while they raced.
Sometime after midnight, our mower came into the pits with a broken chassis. We needed to get it repaired as quickly as possible, as we were losing positions in the race rapidly. Another awesome team a few pits away from us offered us to use their welder. The guys rolled the mower down and quickly started work. They were able to repair the chassis, and away they went. We had lost about 13 positions in the race at the point. Although we did not come over with any intentions of winning this grueling race, we did come over with the intentions of finishing the race in the best position possible. The men rallied on, continuously gaining us back positions. As the late night and early morning drug on; I found Dylan tuckered out sleeping on 2 fold-out chairs, and Hayleigh curled up in one chair in the back of the tents. I covered them both well, as it was fairly chilly out, and I resumed monitoring the race. Everyone seemed to be dragging at this point. I, however, was up, drinking blue Red Bull, enjoying the race. Around 4:30 am, the sun started to rise over the trees on the background of the race track. It was beautiful, it was invigorating, it gave many the second wind and push that they so needed to finish that race! It was amazing! During the last and final hour, between 7 and 8:00 am, everyone came alive in the pits. People who had gone home the night before were showing back up to watch the finish! It was a site to see; The Northerners Kick grASS Team were leading, then suffered a major blow that took them completely out of the race. The Les’ Lux Pussies, a team from Luxembourg took the lead and the win. Derrick drove Simon’s Mower across the finish line, fishing 19th overall. We were all so proud!
Picture credit: Jason Ingold
The race was over, then it was on to cleaning up the field, packing up the pits, and prize giving (trophies). We were awarded an awesome 1st place trophy for greatest distance traveled to race. It was an absolute honor accepting this, and the trophy is pretty awesome, too! We finished things up and said see ya soon to all of our friends who we would not be seeing during the rest of our vacation. It was bittersweet. But, we did talk Mr. Les and Mr. Charlie into joining us in Arkansas next month for finals. We arranged to meet Mr. Gary Shaw in Avon Park when their season opens up this fall. All the while, planning for a much larger trip for all of our USLMRA family! The BLMRA will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2023, and we all cordially invite all of you to join us across the pond to be hosted by the BLMRA teams! Start saving now guys, this is something no one wants to miss! If any of you are interested in getting on board with us to do this, send me a message! I’m willing to help arrange flights, accommodations, and sites to see. The BLMRA will be arranging teams for each of us.
Picture credit: Ian Clark
It was so much fun to finally put names and real-life conversations with so many of my social media friends over the course of the weekend! It was wonderful meeting all of the wives and children of fellow racers; I love this family sport so much! Thanks to everyone who took a few minutes to come to say hi, even if it was just to hear our funny accents and give grief about turning right. Each friendship made and strengthened during this race weekend will be something that we carry with us until our return! A huge thanks go to Simon Campbell for allowing Derrick a turn on your mower and thank you to Darren Tebbutt for agreeing to be our teammate!
Just keep in mind, American’s can turn right!
Away we mow!
Picture credit: Ian Clark