Methodical mind keeps champion ahead of the rest
After five hours of tough
competition at Silsoe
Research Institute last week
the winner of this years
prestigious Tractor Driver of
the Year competition was
Ian Marshall reports
JIM Mount from Leics, who farms at Grange Farm, Thorpe Langton, and Hill Top Farm, Barkby Thorpe, is Tractor Driver of the Year 1998.
Few present at this years finals could deny the standard of competition was particularly high and Mr Mount took the day after holding off strong challenges from fellow finalists, Richard Hughes, Russell Morgan, Jonathan Spray and Alun Sing.
"Brilliant! It hasnt sunk in yet," was still Mr Mounts reaction some time after hearing he had won. Although he adds that he felt confident. "I was a finalist in 1994 and I think knowing, to some extent, what to expect calmed my nerves," he says.
His consistency of performance in all five disciplines on the final day at Silsoe was one just one of Mr Mounts strong suits. He took top spot outright in ploughing, fertiliser spreader calibration and ATV and scored a close second and third in the other two, road work and materials handling.
"Jim approached each task methodically and it was that, mainly, which separated him from the others," says Graham Wells, chairman of the judging panel.
"When you look at the variation of machinery the competitors had to work with, it is unlikely all would be found on a single farm. The mark of a good operator is being able to control equipment he is not familiar with," says Mr Wells.
Mr Mounts other winning suit was his depth of research. "He obviously wants to win, so he has done his homework – he has taken the time to get to know the machinery he was going to be working with."
An example is Mr Mounts calibration of the fertiliser spreader. "Although he is unfamiliar with the make, he knows the principle involved. By applying logic, he was able to tell me both what was wrong with how the machine was set up, and what had to be set to achieve the figures I wanted," explains Mr Wells, who judged this section of the competition.
Mr Mounts winning approach was also demonstrated in his taking the ploughing section, where he dropped only a few marks out of a maximum of 100.
"Jim does a lot of ploughing and it is obvious he has an excellent theoretical knowledge of what is required to set the implement up correctly," says judge Andy Scarlett of Silsoe Research Institute.
"And, having set the plough, in the field he got off the tractor earliest to inspect the work. As a result, he could quickly fine-tune the implement. Some of the other competitors did not approach the task as methodically as they should have done."
With hindsight, Mr Mount has some of his own observations on his overall performance.
"I love my ploughing and I was pleased it was my last task. I felt confident it would give me a chance to make up ground I knew I had lost on some of the other tasks," he says.
"I am surprised I won on the ATVs as I am only a novice, but I knew I had made some mistakes on the materials handling and the road work."
But the day was not Mr Mounts from starting tape to finishing line. "All the competitors did well and scores were running close until the fertiliser spreading exercise and the ploughing. It was only then that Jim pulled away from the others," says Mr Wells.
So, after five hours of keen competition on the final day, it was to Mr Mount that Brian Legg, director SRI, presented the much treasured Tractor Driver of the Year trophy. And, not to be sniffed at, there was also a white envelope containing a cheque for £1000 from the Royal Agricultural Society of England. *
• Ploughing: Set up and work a Dowdeswell DP10 four-furrow reversible mounted on a 115hp John Deere 6610 tractor.
• Fertiliser spreading: Calibrate and operate a KRM EX 1600 twin disc fertiliser spreader mounted on a Case MX120 tractor.
• Materials handling: Using a Manitou MLT527 load a trailer with rubble using a rehandling bucket; attach a pallet fork and place and remove stillages on the trailer bed.
• ATVs: Discuss features of two out of three different makes – Yamaha Kodiak 4×4 and Grizzly 4×4, Suzuki King Quad 4wd – with view to purchasing for towing a trailer and slug pellet application on mixed farm with some sloping ground. Drive and reverse course on model of choice with Ifor Williams twin axle trailer.
• On the road: Prepare a JCB Fastrac 2150 and 17t gross weight tandem axle tipping trailer for the road and then safely negotiate an 8-mile course on the public highway.
Above: Its all over. Finalists, judges and organising staff join forces for the album photograph. Right: Two prizes in one week. Jim Mount with Jane, his bride of four days, and his victory trophy.
Jim Mount gets to grips with fertiliser spreader settings under the watchful eye of judge Graham Wells. Although unfamiliar with the make, Mr Mount soon saw the traps which had been rigged and which settings had to be made to calibrate the machine correctly.