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The need for speed

This Valtra tractor fitted with Nokian's new winter ag tires set a world record speed of 130.1 km/h on a test track in Finland

Ag tires have undergone some major technological advancements in recent years. And they really had to. Farm machines are now bigger, heavier and faster than they used to be, and that calls for more capable tire performance.

Introduction of the high flexion and very high flexion radials have significantly improved traction while enlarging the tire footprint to reduce soil compaction. But with higher road speeds becoming common in ag equipment, designing tires that blend the ability to carry fully ballasted axle loads for maximum traction with those high speeds has been the challenge for manufacturers.

Technologies like Fendt’s Vario Grip tire control system allow an operator to change tire air pressure settings right from the cab, which allows them to quickly air up a tire for road travel and reduce inflation again for field work. That change in pressure setting widens the range of performance for ag tires. But on tractors without a system like that, which means the vast majority, constantly changing air pressure is just too cumbersome.

The Hakkapeliitta tires use a lug tread pattern with siping for improved traction on ice

So tire manufacturers continue their development efforts to improve a tire’s ability to cope with a broad range of loads and speeds. However when it comes to maximum speed ratings on an ag tire, Nokian Tyres of Finland can now claim to be the fastest with their Hakkapeliitta TRI design. Working with AGCO’s Valtra division, (also based in finland) the company just set the world speed record for a tractor tire.

With a world champion rally driver, Juha Kankkunen, behind the wheel of a modified Valtra T234, the tractor wearing a set of Nokian’s Hakkapeliittas hit 130.1 kilometres per hour on a 2.3 kilometre long snow-covered airstrip in Finland. That also netted the tires a place in the Guinness World Records book.

I have done top speed tests earlier with several cars. This was the first time with a tractor, and we immediately got a world record,” says Kankkunen, through the Nokian press release. “The tyres and tractor worked really well, even though the weather was challenging,”

The Hakkapeliitta tires were designed specifically for winter conditions and don’t use the standard chevron bar pattern—explaining why the record attempt took place on a snow-covered track. Anyone who has ever cleared snow with a two-wheel drive tractor can vouch for the fact that the standard chevron tread design is pretty much useless in slippery conditions. Instead, the Hakkapeliitta tires use a lug tread with siping, which makes it more like something you’d expect to see on a class 8 highway truck.

Nokian claims to be the first company to ever produce any tire designed specifically for winter conditions, producing their first version for cars in 1934. The company has a facility in Ivalo Finland where it tests its winter tires, which is known within the company as the “White Hell”. (That’s a term I though was reserved for Saskatchewan from November to March.)

If our prairie winters continue to be as long as they have been for the last few years, we may all need snow tires to get into the fields for spring seeding.

Whether or not you think you’ll ever need to outfit your tractor with winter tires, you have to watch the company’s online video. Click here to link to it. How often will you ever get to see someone drift an ag tractor around corners?


About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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