Fourth time lucky?
KNOWLEDGE of the equipment on test is the key to success in Tractor Driver of the Year, according to finalist William Lee.
Even though this years event is Mr Lees fourth attempt at the title, it is the first year he has made it past the pre-entry stages. For the Royal Show semi-final, he admits his pre-competition homework was not what it should have been.
"I was lucky. At the Royal Show, many of the machines turned out to be ones that I had already used at work. That definitely helped me qualify," he explains.
Work for Mr Lee is as one of a team of two arable staff with Earl and Countess Howes Seagrave Farming Company, at Winchmore Hill, Amersham, Bucks. The farming operation comprises a 485ha (1200-acre) mixed unit growing combineable crops on medium/heavy flinty soils and milking 150 cows.
At this years Tractor Driver of the Year semi-final Mr Lee drew tasks which included hitching on to a Dowdeswell reversible plough and setting up an Amazone fertiliser spreader, both machines currently operated by Seagrave Farming.
Among Mr Lees other responsibilities for Seagrave are driving the farms New Holland TX34 combine, some spraying with a 24m (80ft) Vicon front/rear tank sprayer mounted on a 93hp Renault 103.12TX tractor, and most primary and secondary cultivations. His main tractor is a New Holland Ford 8630 which has been opened up to 150hp.
As for views on tractor design, Mr Lee is happy with the model he drives but has reservations about the trend for makers continually adding more electronic functions. His 8630 has a powershift gearbox but no electronic hydraulics.
"Electronic hydraulics, particularly functions such as wheel-slip control, are good but very expensive to put right when something goes wrong. They are also not the easiest systems to operate until you get used to them."
For these reasons Mr Lee reckons there will always be a market for less sophisticated models with mechanical controls. "Tractors that anybody can jump on and drive."