Hall Of Fame
Hall of Fame:
Tractor puller, BTPA board director, farmer
Peter Clarke’s interest in tractor pulling started in the late 1970’s. After watching an event take place, he wanted to get involved, and decided to organise a charity tractor pull at his home on Windbush Farm, Tingewick, in October 1979.
“It really was the start of tractor pulling for me - we raised good money for charity, everybody had a lot of fun doing the event and we took part with one of our farm tractors, which was an old Massey Ferguson 590,” explained Peter Clarke.
Shortly afterwards, it wasn't long before the first of many pulling tractors emerged from Windbush Farm’s workshops.
“My first pulling tractor was called the Windbush Whistler,” said Peter. “It was a Fordson Major with a D-series engine. It only had one turbo back then and the fuel pump was screwed up to give more fuel. We had some early success with the tractor, and we won the 2.4t European Championship in 1980, which was held in Manchester.”
Peter Clarke has always been competitive, determined and unwavering in everything he does. A keen sportsman, he also played cricket and golf, and he first held the position of BTPA chairman from 1986-1989. It’s a role he has taken on several times since. Throughout his years of involvement in tractor pulling, he has been instrumental in shaping the sport in the UK, along with many others.
Windbush Farm has also been host to many pulling events. Up until 2001, Peter had been actively running up to two events per year at Tingewick, along with the Midlands Tractor Pulling Club. The track and its flagpoles, still remain.
Clarkie, or PC as he is also known, always threw 100% into everything he did. And tractor pulling was no different. But to improve his competitive edge and beat pullers all over Europe, he turned to a Ford 5000 with a six-cylinder engine and two turbos.
“We needed more boost and more power, and the Windbush tractor was our first go at two-stage turbocharging,” he said.
Not satisfied with its performance he wrapped the Ford 5000 in 7910 metalwork which created more space to fit a third turbo, and he renamed the tractor Bull Power in a nod to his dairy farming roots.
Around the same time, PC had seen a visiting American super stock tractor competing in Europe – this was a John Deere 4430 owned by Ron Johnson and called Bits 'n' Pieces. He had made a few trips to the USA to watch pulling, and had started to make good contacts, including long-standing friend Ron Bultemeier from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who competed with Deere Addiction and later, The Popper.
Impressed by Johnson’s Bits ‘n’ Pieces, he bought the Deere and sold his triple-turbo Ford to Swedish friend Thomas Paterson.
With Johnson’s tractor renamed Running Deere, PC was back on championship winning form, taking the 1988 3.4t European Championship in France.
It wasn’t long before PC built himself an additional tractor. This one was initially a pro stock called the JBJ Express. It was a John Deere 4230 supplied by John Bowen-Jones, who ran the local John Deere dealership, JBJ Machines.
The JBJ Express soon found its way into the super stock class and as a four-turbo diesel, it was also the first tractor to win the inaugural 3.4t Eurocup series title in 1993. The JBJ Express wasn’t his only venture into the pro stock class – with Ron Bultemeier’s help, Clarke bought Red Hot from US puller Ed Clock in 1999, which shook-up the European pro stock class the following year with its sigma pump and big turbo. Though it’s first pull didn’t go well – in Ahoy Stadium, Rotterdam, with Clock as the guest driver, Red Hot really was hot, and put the rods out.
The mixed fortunes with two Deeres ended in 1995, and change was needed.
Impressed by the straight-through driveline of IH’s powertrain and its bull gear rear end, PC felt that an IH would give him an advantage. It would also unlock access to knowledge and uprated parts available from several US pullers, along with American diesel tuning firm, Hypermax Engineering.
His next move had to blow the opposition clean off the track, and that opposition was Willem Veldhuizen. The Dutchman was already experimenting with his alcohol-fuelled JD called Bits n Pieces, having learned a thing or two from US team Connor Bros, who came over to Europe in 1992 with Bad Medicine as a guest puller in the Ahoy Stadium.
“I did consider buying Bad Medicine when it was in Europe,” recalled Peter. “But that didn’t happen.”
Not ready to switch to alcohol, he believed a four-charger Hypermax-engined International would run rings around the Dutchman’s alky burner. At the time, he was right.
Through his American connections, PC was introduced to Mark Ulmer from Menno, South Dakota. The Ulmers ran a successful diesel super stock called The Weapon, alongside Esdon Lehn’s Red Line Fever. And this gave PC access to many top-shelf diesel parts and know-how, and in 1995, Red Alert emerged from the Windbush Farm workshop. This four-charger 436ci diesel generated 300psi of boost, and its performance swiftly put Clarkie back in contention.
“Red Alert would stand up on the line and fly,” he said. “No-one in the UK and Europe had ever seen a diesel tractor run like it. And we had Veldhuizen’s alky burner covered.”
In 1997, Red Alert’s last run on diesel brought home the heavier weight 4.5 tonne European super stock title from Erkelenz in Germany. And with the Dutchman’s alcohol tractor starting to show its advantages as the diesel engine’s weaknesses started to emerge, PC decided it was time to switch to alcohol.
“We went to the indoor pull in Louisville at the start of 1998,” he said. “After watching Terry Blackbourn pull, we went back to his trailer and helped take the cylinder head off Slow Ride so we could get it home. It was the start of our journey with alcohol.”
The following year, Clarke and his team won the European Championship plus every round of the Eurocup Series.
By 2004, rule book changes allowed component chassis tractors at super stock level, and Peter Clarke was ready for that next phase. He had already spent most of 2003 building Red Fever, which used the chassis and rear-end from former 2.4t modified champion Limited Edition.
Brent Long of Long Machine in Missouri supplied the OHC cylinder head, same as that currently used on Red Alert and Just Smoky. It was also different to the European cylinder heads.
“We’ve met a lot of good friends along the way, throughout the UK, USA and Europe,” he said. “But we’ve always stayed committed to UK pulling. Even when we’ve been pulling the day before somewhere in Europe, we’ve always done everything we can to get back overnight, to support a home pull. It’s not that far to travel when you put your mind to it.”
After many more years of highs and lows, and the challenges of running two IH super stocks, Red Fever was sold in 2020 to Danish puller Kim Andersen, who renamed the tractor Betty Booze.
At the age of 78, Clarkie’s passion still remains, and with the many trophies around the walls of Windbush Farm’s workshop, his knowledge and expertise is still called upon by a younger generation of competitors who are keen to learn from one of the most experienced pullers in the UK.
Currently president of the BTPA, PC’s involvement at all levels of the sport throughout the last 45 years has been instrumental in helping many others to get involved. And that has included helping others to get on-track, providing help and advice, making and selling spare parts or simply just supporting the many who have bought tractors from him over the years.
PC has built, bought and sold many tractors, as he progressed through the sport. In addition to Red Alert and Red Fever, they include Running Deere, Red Hot, Oh Bonnie, Dog Meat, Super Toy, JBJ Express, Bull Power and Rough Justice.