This post is also available in: German
There’s a cloud of dust hanging over the field. Approaching us through the brown haze is a cacophony of clattering engine noises, and vague shapes loom into sight. Then we race past the audience, around 30 riders on their tuned-up tractor mowers, with me somewhere in the pack. I bomb around the earthy track at full throttle, leaping over bumps, drifting around bends. My bright yellow race machine can reach speeds of up to 70 km/h. The 620 cc four-stroke V2 engine with 60 hp is good for 150 km/h but it’s just not possible to reach that kind of speed on these tracks with all the bends and corners.
In any case, my mode of transport, that was once just a common or garden ride-on mower, no longer bears much resemblance to a piece of gardening equipment. We, that’s my team and I, built it ourselves. Everything is hand-made from the exhaust system to the axles and air filter. Cost: €8,000 to €10,000. Every Tuesday, the 30-man CAT Racing Team, made up of mechanics and four riders (including myself), get together in a repair shop to work on our three racing tractors.
We compete for the German championship in the open class of the ERWM Series. That means 13 or 14 races a season. For every race we pack everything up, including all the workshop equipment for our box tent. That’s where we get the tractors back into shape if they run into problems. It’s like Formula 1 – but on a field.
As many as 30,000 people watch the races. At the biggest and most popular event in Thönse, we managed 3rd place in a field with 88 starters. That was really good fun. I am always nervous before the start, but when I’m racing, I want to be up with the leaders.
Even with protective clothing, racing on the unsprung tractors is not without its hazards. I’ve rubbed my hands raw from holding the steering wheel so tight and I’ve crashed into one of the big 500 kilo straw bales that surround the track. That was the end of one of the axles :-). Shit happens. It was no big deal for the mechanics – the lads soon had the axle welded together again out on the field. I wouldn’t be able to race at all without my team.
And I won’t have to either – because at the end of April we all launched into the new season together.