Tractor pulling gains popularity

SONITA CHANDAR
Last updated 12:22 10/03/2014
Tractor pulling is growing in popularity worldwide.
Fairfax NZ

GO DRIVER, GO: Tractor pulling is growing in popularity worldwide.

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Wheels will be spinning and the dirt flying when the big rigs roll in to Feilding for the annual Norwood Tractor Pull competition.

All leading tractor manufacturers will be represented at the event which runs as part of the Central Districts Field Days from this Thursday and put through their paces by the Tractor Pull New Zealand tractor pull sledge.

Modified tractors will be running daily - providing all the noise-making, smoke-generating and wheelie- popping action you can handle.

Dating back to the 1860s and the days of the horse and cart, farmers would hold competitions during which they would pull the barn door down and hook it up to a horse. As it was dragged along, more and more people would stand on it and whoever pulled it the furthest was the winner.

Horses were eventually replaced by tractors and in order to give the sport much needed structure, the National Tractor Pullers' Association was formed in 1969 in the United States where the sport has since grown to be a multi-million dollar affair.

Tractor Pull has been at the Central Districts Field Days for the past five years and is growing steadily, says TPNZ chairman Vaughan Coy.

"With the exception of Northland, we now travel all over the country holding events and the sport is becoming increasingly popular with competitors and spectators. Although tractor pulling is still in its infancy in New Zealand, people see we are in it for the long haul and it is worth doing so they are investing time and money into their modifying their tractors."

The format of the competition at the Central Districts Field Days was changed for 2013 and Vaughan believes it worked well and hopes to grow on its success.

"We used to run it over three days but for many people it was too difficult to commit to those three days. We are now doing the business house competition on Thursday, the battle of the brands on Friday and the tractor pull on Saturday. This means contractors and competitors only have to come along and play with their machines on one particular day," Vaughan said.

Local boys Todd Fletcher and Roger Allen, of Norwood Farm Machinery Centre, will once again be lining up to take on current champions.

Todd began competing in modified tractor pulls after winning the Standard Class national final at Mystery Creek Fieldays. Seeing the modified tractors competing, he thought it could be good for a laugh. A few months later he was out servicing a customer's tractor on a farm near Opiki and spotted an old Ford 6610 abandoned behind a silage stack.

"By the state of it, it looked as if it had been there for a long time," Todd said.

"When I got back to the workshop, I mentioned it to the guys and we then started throwing around the idea of building a modified drag tractor. We decided to ask the owners - Hopkins Farming Group - to cut us a cheap deal for the tired, old tractor. They ended up cutting us the cheapest deal possible and donated the tractor to the Norwood's workshop for the project.

"The tractor was then brought back to the Norwood's workshop by local trucking firm Kopane Transport. After many hours with the water blaster, cleaning the dirt and moss off the old girl, we were able to properly assess the situation and see what we had bitten off," Todd said.

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"The old seized engine was removed and replaced with a newer, bigger modified engine," Todd said.

The dead birds were flushed out of the fuel tank, a mountain of parts were either repaired or replaced, and all of this was topped off with a brand new paint job and a set of new feet (tyres and wheels) for the rear.

"To be honest, we didn't really have a plan of how to go about building the drag tractor but the project seemed to take on a life of its own," he said.

"The end result amazed us all. This of course was the result of about a year's worth of Saturday mornings from Roger, our foreman Ian Vincent and myself, building up the old abandoned tractor living behind the silage stack to the 300hp pulling machine it is today."

Various prizes are up for grabs in the different classes, as well as the trophy. But, more importantly are the bragging rights which comes with being the best.

Classes include Standard Class, which are tractors straight out of the paddock, pre-1985, which are the old iron of yesteryear, and modified tractors, which are the farming equivalent of boy racers and definitely a must-see for petrol-heads.

- Straight Furrow

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