This week sees the first day of spring. And that’s official. Even if it snows.
In my neck of the woods spring arrived last weekend and suddenly there is work to be done. Warm sunshine, blue skies and a short, sharp shower of rain brought out the blossom, the bulbs and the grass began to grow under our feet.
All this has left many of us woefully unprepared. Time for some pre-season testing with a week, at most, to go before nature takes over.
The first engine cracked into life early last Saturday morning. Within hours everyone had broken cover, mechanics wheeling their machines out into the sunlight. It quickly became apparent that some were better prepared than others.
Atco were first out. After a quick stop to adjust ride heights, the dark green machine was immediately on the pace. The British Atco is said to be the only machine comfortably within the 12.3kg weight limit even when running with the new taller rear grass box. Flymo, running in a new orange and silver livery, were expecting great things after exhaustive work in the poly-tunnel. But there were long faces around the silver laptop. No grip. The computer said there would be, but there was none. Hayter, for so long a front-runner, were delayed by a reluctant engine. Despite copious amounts of WD40, the HG109 refused to fire up. Mountfield, one of the few to run with GERS, the Grass-Exit Recovery System, showed early pace but struggled on new slick rollers.
The early spring surprise was Lawn GP, emerging from their shed with a beautifully detailed new front wing. This new outfit, recently sold by parent company Rhonda Rotary, was way quickest over an up-and-back, as well as over a full distance. Lawn GP is one of three teams to use the Briggs & Stratton engine, this impressive unit having been exclusive to Flymo in recent summers. At this early stage it seems this neat machine is right on the button. Seasoned observers suggested that, if the new LGP001 was really this good, then Rhonda might be tempted to buy it back.
MTD, in a smart new red and black livery, were the only casualty of this early test. Running wide, the G109 picked up a stone and was left beached at Rockery, bringing out a red flag. Meanwhile, Husqvarna failed to appear, the green machine staying under wraps while engineers struggled with fuel and oil mixture problems and a sticking rear box.
Conclusions are, as ever, difficult to draw. Who will make the cut? Who is pushing, who is hovering? Early signs, as dusk fell on this first day of spring, are that Lawn GP has the best package. But not until they have to deliver every weekend will we know just how good they are.