Belfast Telegraph

Sam grabs gold for NI in Euro tractor driving championship

By Chris McCullough

A farmer from Co Down has beaten off competition from 13 other European countries to win a tractor driving championship in France.

Sam Graham, from Killinchy, took his place on the winning podium after driving a John Deere tractor and trailer through a series of trying conditions on the Michelin Technical Innovation Centre test circuit in Ladoux.

Not only did he have to negotiate obstacles and ground conditions, Sam had to think out his strategy on what tyre pressures were the most effective for efficient fuel consumption, speed and soil compaction.

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 a two-day visit to Ladoux, which is one of the world's largest vehicle test centres, featuring 20 test tracks.

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 an 18km long course.

The European Drivers' Championship 2017, was jointly organised by John Deere and Michelin. Sam won the competition 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. The runners-up were David Durand from France and Stefan Häkansson from Sweden.

Sam said: "Winning the competition was a very pleasant surprise, taking into consideration the skill and effort we all put in. 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."

Alexandre Gasc, marketing product manager for Michelin's new ROADBIB range, added: "Tyre pressures are critical, and Sam ensured maximum fuel efficiency and minimal soil compaction across this demanding circuit. It was an event designed to challenge even the best drivers, but he put in a fantastic effort and was a truly deserving winner."

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