World Championship Rotary Tiller Races

Emerson, AR, USA

World Championship Rotary Tiller Races

Words by Nelson Taylor

Imagine tilling your garden, wishing your damn machine moved a little faster so you could relax under the shade of looming Elm and work on a six-pack of Bud. That's the likely evolution of the World Championship Rotary Tiller Races, held every June since 1990 in the 317-person town of Emerson, AR. With tuned tillers and old ski goggles from the garage, racers fly down Emerson's 200-foot championship racetrack in search of little garden-variety glory. Well, calling the course a racetrack is probably stretching it a little. Maybe fallow field is better. The annual MC of the event, Bill Dailey, says, 'We're hoping someday for a tiller racing stadium, but right now it's just out in the middle of nowhere.'

In 1998, Ronnie Hughey, a five-year veteran of the event, skippered his modified tiller into the world record seat with a time of 7.37 seconds. How fast is that? 'Faster than I am,' Ronnie says. But for all you speed snobs out there, that's a whopping 18.5 miles per hour. We're talking blurrrrrrrr, baby. But what's Ronnie's secret? For starters, he made his own machine with the hands the Almighty gave him. Others have spent thousands on professionally modified machines — alcohol-burning engines et all. But Ronnie got his engine from a 185cc Honda 3-wheeler. And as Ronnie so slyly deduced, the power isn't in the punch. One of the Keller's (a family of racers who are Hughey's biggest rivals) machines has a 425cc Suzuki motorcycle motor. Hughey laughs, 'When he took off last year, he was digging a hole to China.' Ronnie also made another smart move. He realized that since his weight would be on the back, it only made sense to put his tires on the back. Pure genius!

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