ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, MOW: Grassroots sport gains momentum
AN UNCONVENTIONAL race car may be the ticket for grassroots motorsport to return to Bowen.
Bowen residents Michael Hicks and Alex Finn have spent the last 12 months building a unique race vehicle - a ride-on lawn mower.
The mower now sports a 20hp V-twin engine, custom steering and a top speed of more than 70km/h.
Mr Hicks was told about the unique motorsport after meeting with his accountant, and said he was instantly hooked on the idea.
"I saw my accountant in Proserpine and he told me about a few guys starting to build some down there,” Mr Hicks said.
"They have a league in Townsville. We went and checked it out and I thought it was great, so away we went.”
Although both of the men have mechanical and engineering knowledge, they said building the vehicle was a learning experience and they taught themselves by watching YouTube and visiting online forums.
They had their first 'shake-down' last weekend at a race day in Charters Towers.
The current iteration of the race vehicle is a combination of three different mowers, with extensive modifications made to get it race-ready.
"We started with a lawn mower base, and put a larger engine in from a bigger mower,” Mr Finn said.
"We added about 400mm of width in the back of the mower, modified the steering and added go-kart axles and motorcycle brakes.
"It was a lot of work, but it was a great thing to do and we both learned a lot from it.”
In total, the pair believe they spent about $1500, but say you could do it for less than $1000 by making changes to the design.
With talks under way for the Bowen Showground to open its gates for go-kart racing, both men believe it is the perfect opportunity for the sport to grow in the region.
"There's a track in Townsville, and a new one that just opened in Charters Towers so it's getting pretty large,” Mr Hicks said.
"Bowen used to have a great speedway community, and I think this would be a great, cheap way for people to be able to get into racing.
"There's around five that I know of being built in the Proserpine area, so it would be good to see if we can get some people in Bowen building one.”
However, with some racers sinking more than $10,000 into the engines alone, the biggest question is whether the budget build is competitive on the race track.
"We were very competitive for our first outing and kept up easily with people who had much larger budgets,” Mr Finn said.
"We've still got some modifications to come, so I think we'll be hot on the toes of that leaderboard.”