The 2017 European Drivers’ Championship: A Synergy of Strategy, Speed, and Smarts

Farmers and contractors throughout Europe competed for top honors.

When you first see the words “European driving championship,” what comes to mind?

If your first thought was “sleek open-wheel race cars screaming through the streets of a cosmopolitan seaside city,” you’re certainly not alone.

However, the 2017 European Drivers’ Championship—held in a small town near the Chaîne des Puys mountain range of central France—wasn’t entirely about speed.

No, this event required competitors to carefully maneuver a John Deere 6250R Tractor through a series of daunting challenges designed to maximize performance without compromising efficiency.

The test track was the ideal place to get to know the new 6250R Tractor. And what a tractor it is—300hp and an excellent turning circle made it very agile in tight spots.” —Sam Graham, a farmer from Killinchy, Northern Ireland

A Continental Challenge

The event, which took place at the Michelin Technical Innovation Centre Test Circuit in Ladoux, France, required each participant to master the challenges of speed, maneuverability, fuel efficiency, and soil protection.

The goal for each competitor was simple yet complex. Create a winning strategy that enabled success in challenges based on typical daily jobs on the farm or worksite.

The Competition

Participants were matched in equally-prepared 6250R Tractors equipped with the new CommandPRO joystick. Each machine pulled a 29 ton tandem axle trailer equipped with Michelin tires around an 18 kilometer course.

At the beginning of the event, each contestant not only picked his strategy but selected the appropriate tractor settings and tire pressures. The contestants then completed a field and road course as quickly and safely as possible while accounting for fuel consumption and possible soil compaction.

Finally, each driver was scored on performance in the following categories:

  • Speed
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Soil compaction
  • Driving skills

“John Deere’s goal for this competition was to demonstrate how well-trained operators can improve the performance of their tractors,” says Javier Fernandez, product marketing manager. “The results showed how a driver can save time and money by making the right decisions with the right machine settings.”

So, who won?

The King of the Road (and Rows)

Before we reveal the winner, we need to tell you about the rather unique way of selecting the participants.

“First, drivers registered to become their country‘s representative. They then needed to get as many votes or ’likes‘ as possible from their friends and followers on social media,“ says Daniel Cox, advertising planning manager. “The driver with the most votes at the end of the campaign traveled to France to represent his country.”

Graham, the farmer from Northern Ireland, was thrilled to be part of the event.

“I was overwhelmed to be picked to represent the UK and Ireland through votes on social media. The support from my family and friends was fantastic,” he said. “It was special because I’m a John Deere fan and operator of three John Deere tractors on my farm.”

And the winner was… Sam Graham.

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 for me.”

—Sam Graham

Graham’s win can be chalked up to many factors—skill, experience, precision come to mind —but his choice of in-cab settings sealed the victory.

“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,” Fernandez says. “This proved to be an excellent strategy and helped him to deliver a winning performance.”

Graham goes home with new memories, friends, and a new trophy.

Overall, winning the European Drivers’ Championship was a memorable experience and will further my own experience on the family farm in Northern Ireland. Many thanks to all involved.”

—Sam Graham

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The 2017 European Drivers’ Championship: A Synergy of Strategy, Speed, and Smarts

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