Story by Darren Heartwell
The Bobcat Jr. Team made history in 2017 by becoming the first team based outside of North America to win a Grand National championship. The tractor of the Boer family from the Netherlands used six different drivers to accomplish this feat.
The team stated, “Tractor pulling is a family” and this was a true international effort with three drivers from the Netherlands—Berrie and Bertus Boer and Bart van der Sluis—and three from the United States—Bill Leischner and former GN Mini champions Phillip Fairbanks and Jason Hathaway. Regardless of the driver, the team finished in the top 10 at every event in 2017.
Berrie and Bertus Boer initially connected with their teammates in the United States through Brian Knox at Sassy Racing Engines. They have been bringing the tractor over and running the Shell Rotella Cup events, but they wanted to get more ambitious this year and run the whole circuit. Whoever was available would come over and drive the tractor; if no one was available, Hathaway would drive. Interviewed at the Enderle Pull-Off, Hathaway stated, “The ‘Bobcat Jr.’ tractor just made passes. There were no major issues, it held together great!” In addition to the title, the team also won the Shell Rotella Cup and the Bowling Green ring. Hathaway added, “It was a perfect season!”
It began with Berrie behind the wheel at the Mule City 300 in Benson, North Carolina. He drove the tractor to third- and second-place finishes to establish a lead they would hold the entire season. Hathaway was in the seat for a fourth in Hutchinson, Minnesota. The Saturday session in Hutchinson and the Thursday night session in Tomah, Wisconsin were both rained out. Berrie piloted the tractor to the first win of the season on Saturday night at the Budweiser Dairyland Super Nationals.
Bertus drove to victory on Friday night at the Lions Super Pull of the South in Chapel Hill, Tennessee and finished third on Saturday night to extend the points lead.
In Fort Recovery, Ohio, Hathaway drove the tractor to a runner-up finish on Friday night and Leischner to a 10th on Saturday night. Fairbanks took his turn behind the wheel in Langford, New York. He won in the afternoon and finished fourth in the evening session. Bart Sluis was at the controls for an eighth-place finish in Sandusky, Ohio and a sixth in Napoleon, Ohio.
Berrie was back to pull at the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green, Ohio. He won on Friday night and finished second on Saturday night to win the ring. Berrie finished fourth and third in Greenville, Ohio and third again at the Friday Night Spectacular in Wellington, Ohio. Leischner completed the regular season and clinched the title with a runner-up finish at the M.E. Miller Tire Tri-State Showdown in Wauseon, Ohio.
The Bobcat Jr. Team would like to thank Bennie Vreeman (Vampire Gears), Brian Knox at Sassy Racing Engines, The Hathaway and Leischner families, the Dirtslinger Team, Phil and Jessica Fairbanks, Marty and Kathy, and everyone involved in transporting, working on, and driving the tractor.
About National Tractor Pullers Association
The NTPA is the sport’s oldest and most respected truck and tractor pulling sanctioning organization. Governed by a board of directors, the NTPA is managed by World Pulling International (WPI), an independently owned entity. Headquartered in Worthington, Ohio, the NTPA provides rules and regulations and the infrastructures required for organizations throughout the country to arrange truck and tractor pulls. The 2018 NTPA Championship Pulling Circuit was sponsored in part by Case IH, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Alliance Tire, Enderle Fuel Injection, MAC Trailer, Ag Protect 1, Shell Rotella, STOP-FYRE®, Cen-Pe-Co Lubricants, Columbus Diesel Supply, Heritage Iron, Stainless Diesel, Midwest Wheel Inc., the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green, Ohio, PowerBore Cylinder Sleeves, Profab Machine Inc., the Budweiser Dairyland Super Nationals in Tomah, Wisconsin, and Riverside Engine Inc.
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