Fieldays pulls in rural motorsport fans

  • 12/06/2014

Tractor pulling has been described as the oldest and heaviest motorsport in the world.

In New Zealand it's gaining in popularity, with farmers taking their tractors off the field and onto the race track.

Fieldays at Mystery Creek holds the country's biggest tractor pulling competition. It's boy racing, rural style – the Kiwi tractor, but not in its natural habitat.

"If any of your drivers drove like that in the field they'd be sacked, eh?" says competitor Darrell Atkins. "I mean, no one sits in the paddock, full revs and drops the clutch – that's instant dismissal."

But when it comes to tractor pulling, that's exactly what you want to be doing. Fieldays has been running its competition for over 30 years. It's the largest event of its kind in the country, with more than 60 tractors competing each year.

"This is the one big wrap-up of the year for tractor pulling, so there are bits of tractor pulling all over the show and this is the one big blowout they have at the end of the year," says Andrew Reymer.

Racing takes place over four days and is split into two categories – weight adjusted, which is a flat-out 100 metre race, and weight transfer, which sees a big weight slowly being transferred onto a sled which the tractors are pulling.

Special software has been developed to make sure the competition is fair.

"It was quite an eye-opener to understand what they do and how technical it is in terms of getting the right weights and values for each tractor, and how they have it in classes to make it all fair," says Jeremy Hughes of Company X.

Company X developed an application that controls the tractor sled hardware. It provides simple and instant adjustments and manages all of the data, such as results on competition day.

The sport is growing in New Zealand, but it's not yet up to the multimillion-dollar industry in the United States.

"People are starting now to build modified tractors, so they'll have everything from changing it to a big Chevy engine, to a jet aircraft engine to three V8s on it," says Mr Reymer.

It's a long way from the sport's beginnings. Tractor pulling dates back to the 1860s when farmers set out to prove who had the strongest horse. A barn door was laid on the ground for the horse to pull, then people would jump on it one by one until the horse could no longer pull it.

One hundred and fifty years later, farmers are still trying to prove their 'horse power' – and they take pride in doing so, too.

"We love them. I mean, look at the last two days," says Mr Atkins. "I've lavished this [tractor] with polish. I mean, my wife hasn't seen me – you know, if I spent more time at home than I do with these, then I would be fine."

But it could all pay off this weekend – the winner gets around $800 and a motorbike.

3 News

source: newshub archive