Taranaki Tractorpull: Naki boys come out and play

One of the great things about this game of tractor pulling is the people you meet and the conversations you have. This is all good of course, so long as the conversations you enjoy are either about diesel, tyre choice or the ever popular, "Why would anyone ever buy a tractor like that?"

Throw in a few tractors living the afterlife in the tractor version of hell, with fuel and air poked at them to the point where they scream and breath fire, as well as some of Taranaki’s finest barley concoction, and the scene is set for hot tractor conversation that leaves any innocent bystander yawning and looking at their watch every few minutes. In the meantime, the rest of us tractor pull fans sort out every issue in the tractor world with increasing intensity and passion.

This all takes place on the sidelines of the catalyst to conversation: Taranaki Tractorpull’s weight transfer sledge making its way up and down the track at the Hawera A&P show, on the final Saturday night. The weather was dodgy enough all day to stop contractors cutting silage, yet kind enough to allow them out for the night to have a fun night on the track.

Included in the line-up was a visitor from the murky depths of Galatea, who made his way over, bravely bringing both his wife and mistress. But the mistress didn’t have it all her way. The wife got to ride in the cab, while the mistress was on the back. Once at the track however, it was her turn, and a few near perfect runs from Nick Stolzenberg on his modified Fordson Major (the Mistress) saw him well set up for the pulling season ahead. Other notable contenders from near and far were Dennis Nolly, Stuart Bayly, (Mark Gopperth boys) who had seven Gopperth tractors going and the (Cambell boys) Rusty Cambell who also had seven tractors. Anthony Neil turned up on his 4×4 along with Aaron Ryan.

So what brings them back time and time again, apart from the local brew that is? A good tractor pull is a combination of a good track, and a good sledge. The track often takes a day to prepare with watering, compaction and levelling but the correct soil is always a good start. Heavy clay is usually best, that packs well, and holds moisture. With the track receiving as much attention from Karel Van Loo as Tony Greig gives to the MCG cricket pitch, the next critical factor is the sledge.

A good sledge will tow from near the bottom of the front pan, 100mm up from the ground is best, at a height that stays at 100mm the entire pull, no matter what the tractor towing it, how far, or in what conditions. This should set up a chain angle of approximately 20 degrees when hitched to the pulling tractor. Behind the towing eye is the sledge pan which may look simple, but provides a degree of friction on the soil which ultimately stops the pull.

Tractor pull is about a build-up of friction at a controlled rate. The best example in the country is undoubtedly the sledge run by Taranaki Tractorpull. Karel Van loo has been involved with tractor pull in Holland for well over 30 years, and has built two tractor based sledges in New Zealand, a prototype initially commissioned by National Fieldays and still used there. A few years ago he embarked on his on much improved design, building on the prototype concept, but much improving the functionality and complexity of the initial design.

So with the track and sledge set, the night went on and the tractor issues of the world were discussed at length, with no obvious conclusion (as you might expect), but another cracker days tractor pulling was had.

Grasslandz is holding an open day for exhibitors on 30 January to show the results of very successful summer grass growing trials, which will conclude with a tractor pull on the track at the Grasslandz site (McFarlane contracting, 870 SH26, Eureka) from 3pm to late. Consider this a blow out for the Waikato guys after a very busy grass season, and before the maize season ahead.

A return to the Pihama sports ground in Taranaki on 14 February will see the Taranaki Tractorpull sledge in action again just 15 days later to keep the ‘Naki boys going before they head into their busy autumn season.

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