P.E.I. lawn tractor racing attracting international attention

·2 min read
Lawn tractor racers on P.E.I. prepare to hit the track in St. Peters Bay. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
Lawn tractor racers on P.E.I. prepare to hit the track in St. Peters Bay. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

Even a pandemic couldn't stop the growth of the lawn tractor racing scene on Prince Edward Island.

"We started in 2014 kind of as a joke and it just grew from there," said Jeff Wilson who helped bring the sport to P.E.I. and who runs the group's Facebook page.

That page went from having a couple hundred to more than three thousand members during the last year.

Wilson said some videos on the page have more than 100,000 views, and have been seen by people across the U.S.

"We got people from Oklahoma and Florida and Australia and New Zealand," Wilson said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Unlike what some might expect, mowing grass isn't part of a lawn tractor race. The tractors are modified and have their blades removed.

Wilson said on typical race days, more than 35 tractors shift into gear on the track in St. Peters Bay, P.E.I. As the number of racers grows, so does the amount of power under the engines.

Wilson said they probably approach 80 km/h.

For the most part, races have continued during the pandemic. Spectators are always welcome since they can pull up to the track in their car and watch races within their respective bubbles. In fact the pandemic may have helped raise the profile of the sport.

"The audience got bigger every race pretty much. With the whole pandemic thing going on there wasn't a lot of activities for people to do," he said.

Tony Davis
Tony Davis

With restrictions easing, lawn tractor race enthusiasts from off-Island are now hauling their machines to the track.

Craig Bell and Nick Atkinson drove about five and a half hours one way from Woodstock, N.B., to P.E.I.

"We just love racing, can't get enough of it," said Atkinson.

Bell said in New Brunswick there are four or five tracks and events can draw over 1,500 spectators, but he said his team of five enjoys the trip and the change of scenery now that travel between Atlantic provinces is once again allowed.

"We lost a couple months [at the] first of last season," said Atkinson. "Hope it keeps growing so we can keep racing."

While the sport continues to grow in Atlantic Canada, Wilson said before the pandemic there was talk with clubs in Ontario about doing a national circuit.

"We should do like a national thing ... each kind of track have a couple races, gather points and have one meet, somewhere central."

That's something Wilson said he wants to help establish post-pandemic.

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