All the action and excitement of tractors up on two wheels, smoking blowing from exhausts and dust flying – while drivers vie for bragging rights as the district’s best tractor pullers – is happening in Te Puke early this month.
The Tractor Pull New Zealand’s only North Island competition for 2020 is on at the Te Puke A&P Lifestyle Show on February 8 – and while promising to bring action to onlookers it’s also a great chance to bring the agricultural community together.
Tractor Pull NZ chairman Vaughan Coy says what he enjoys about the sport is the camaraderie. “It’s friendly and contracting and farming are quite lonely occupations, so this is a chance to all get-together and talk to people who are telling the same lies as you.
The group’s 43ft semi-trailer becomes a grandstand for competitors, and there’s a barbecue to encourage socialising after competing.
Vaughan says when you’re contracting it is easy to look at competitors and go: ‘That guy’s a so-and-so’ but when you actually meet the person and talk to them you often realise he’s not a bad joker, so you can make connections with people.”
The Tractor Pull NZ event has run at Te Puke’s A&P for about four years and usually attracts between 15 and 30 tractors across three classes. “The event has always been well-patronised and quite enjoyed.
“Local contractors are very supportive. We have guys travelling from Whakatane, Hamilton, and one guys comes from Auckland to compete,” says Vaughan, who says TPNZ has – thanks to some Kiwi ingenuity – designed its own unique sled which means it doesn’t run weight-restricted classes as similar events do.
“We use a load cell in the chain and we pull a percentage of the tractor’s weight. So if our pull factor is 80 per cent, this is entered into the computer at the start of a run and using a 10 tonne tractor to race 100m – the sled is trying to achieve 8 tonne weight resistance.
“The sled is continually monitoring and adjusting to the pull factor entered and will hydraulically lift the tractor to achieve the set percentage weight pull.
“So when you start the race you begin by towing the tractor on four wheels and progress to dragging it on two skid pans.
“The system is unique in the world. Everyone else competes via weight classes.”
As a result, the competition offers a Standard Class that competitors call the ‘Pull on Sunday, Plow on Monday’.
“This has tractors from straight out of the paddock and is usually entered by contractors and anyone who wants to have a go. We’ve had bank managers, reporters, the works try it.”
The Pre-1985 class is for machines built before 1985 – catering to older tractors that don’t have the same technology of today’s machines, such as clutchless shifting.
And the Modified class appeals to the ‘Boyracer rural-style’ guys who’ve modified their machines for maximum performance.
Vaughan says tractor pulling is a very safe sport. “Yes, they are very big machines to operate but they’re simple machines to drive – you can get in make them go forwards relatively easy. Operating them to get the best out of them for contracting purposes is a different thing.
“So a lot of people can just get in and have a go – you don’t need huge tractor hours under your belt.”
All classes have a 15 tonne weight limit “to keep an even playing field for competitors” and the Te Puke event offers a practice run until lunchtime “so drivers can roll around, hook up and practise pulling” then competing starts in the afternoon.
“How it is run depends on how many and when tractors arrive – but the general scenario is two pulls, and best distance wins.”
Winners receive bragging rights as the district’s best and prizes sponsored by local agricultural businesses. Enter, or find out more, at: www.tractorpull.co.nz
Tractor Pull origins
So how did tractor pulling become a sport? Vaughan has an explanation. He says the competition’s origins go back to the days of horse and carts. “This pre-dates the motor being invented and is when people would debate over whose horse was stronger.
“So they’d hook their horse to a stump. If the first horse pulled the stump out, the second couldn’t do it. If the stump was partially pulled out by the first horse, the owner could claim their horse loosened it for the second competitor.
“So instead, they’d take a door off a barn and put it on the ground. People would line up alongside the track – and as the horse would pass towing the barn door, people would step onto it. So the load got heavier and heavier as the horse went down the track. It was all about whose horse could pull the furthest. Today, we’ve modernised that concept with a hydraulic sled to achieve the same feat.”