Racing lawnmowers on NH's frozen lakes and ponds
A cutting-edge way to race
It was winter, and they had time on their hands. So, they thought, why not race lawnmowers on Mike Collins' ice-covered pond? And so they did. "Back then, it was just a group of friends spending Sundays horsing around with lawnmowers on ice," says Arthur Marston, one of the friends.
But in the six years since then, the group has formed the Strafford Lawnmower Racing Association, set up NASCAR-style rules and moved from Collins' small pond to a larger oval track made by flooding a leveled spot on the property. The lawnmowers (yes, the blade is taken off) have upped their game too. No longer are they made with stuff found at the recycling center with screws for tire studs; now they have souped-up engines with real studded tires.
"Mine will go up to 50 mph," says Marston. That's thanks to his lawnmower's spiffier carburetor, after-market connecting rods and pistons, a flywheel made for high rpms and no governor. Though they can go faster, the average track speed for seasoned drivers like him — racing in the "Mowdified" class — is about 35. Beginners compete in the "Mowstock" class, generally at slower speeds. Nonetheless, there is a lot of spinning, bumping, rubbing and sliding into each other that goes on. "It gets exciting," Marston says.
But, with helmets, neck braces and kill switches required and strict racing rules enforced, no one has ever been hurt. And now that they're no longer on the pond, there's no chance a lawnmower will be lost.
As long as it's cold enough, they'll be on the ice most Sundays at 11 a.m. with warm-ups, heat races and features.