Irish farmer crowned champion tractor driver
Sam Graham, a farmer from Killinchy in Co. Down, beat off tough competition from farmers and contractors representing 13 European countries to win the European Drivers' Championship 2017, organised jointly by John Deere and Michelin.
The runners-up were David Durand from France and Stefan Häkansson from Sweden.
The event was held at the Michelin Technical Innovation Centre Test Circuit in Ladoux, France, and saw farmers and contractors testing their skills behind the wheel of John Deere’s new 6250R tractor – riding on Michelin’s latest generation ROADBIB tyres, which were unveiled at the event ahead of their planned 2018 launch.
Sam earned his place at the final after registering to take part online, and winning hundreds of votes to secure himself the chance to compete at an international level. This saw him treated to an exclusive two-day visit to Ladoux, which is one of the world’s largest vehicle test centres, featuring 20 test tracks with a combined length of 45km.
To compete in the challenge each participant had to master the challenges of speed, manoeuvrability, fuel efficiency and soil protection by developing their own winning driving strategy for tasks that are typical for the daily work of a farmer or contractor.
The winner was the driver who adopted the best overall strategy, combining speed with the lowest possible fuel consumption and lowest soil compaction in the field. Their skills were tested around a carefully constructed 18km long course where even the smallest mistake mattered.
“Winning the competition was a very pleasant surprise, taking into consideration the skill and effort we all put in,” said Sam Graham. “Whether I won or not, the European Drivers’ Championship was an unforgettable experience, and I would like to thank John Deere and Michelin for the opportunity – the whole event went so smoothly and without a fault.”
Javier Fernandez, John Deere’s product marketing manager for the new 6R Series tractors, said: “Sam decided to go for the Auto transmission mode, which automatically adjusts the gear ratio and engine speed to get the maximum performance without compromising efficiency. This proved to be an excellent strategy, and helped him to deliver a winning performance.”