23 December 2019

Winner Takes It All!

Randolph Covich, editor of Deals on Wheels magazine, headed to the 2019 MIMICO Excavator Competition held at Pukekohe Park Raceway in early December. Here are his thoughts on what was an exciting event.

To win at any competition, you need to think like a champ and I guess that also means having the edge on those you are up against. So, while a lot of Daniel Smith’s fellow competitors were sauntering around checking out the bling at the Turners Truck and Machinery Show—the venue where this year’s MIMICO Excavator Competition was being held—Dan sat tight and watched.

Well, that’s kind of how it seemed to me every time I turned up to check on the latest excavator operator competing at the controls of one of the two Kobelco SK75SR-7 eight tonne midi diggers, as they used their best skills available on the day to hopefully walk away with 2019’s winning trophy.

A little unlike the long-running National Excavator Operator’s Competition, the smaller MIMICO-sponsored event has a bit less seriousness than really finding out who can pour the best cup of tea with a digger, but MIMICO’s one-day winner-takes-all showing still carries some serious bragging rights and has for just on three years now.

So much so actually, that the top dog from the North Island-based competition gets an automatic entry in the inaugural South Island MIMICO-sponsored Excavator Competition in March 2020. I am told that the Christchurch event will also be held over one day and as they have already made public, the overall winner from the North and South Island competitions will get to visit the Kobelco factory in Japan, courtesy of MIMICO.

So anyway, back to the excavator competition in Pukekohe. As I mentioned a little earlier, Daniel was still paying close attention to the other contestants, his attentive eyes hidden behind those mirrored wraparounds he seems fond of.

And it seemed all the study was going to pay off, with Daniel being something like 17-odd seconds ahead of his nearest competitor when the time came for the final play-offs of the top excavator operators.

For a guy who has cut his teeth on various machines, from wheel loaders to 50-tonne machines over the past 12 or so years, Daniel carries an intensity that we often see in people who want to win. Whether it’s drift cars or diggers, he’s a competitive bloke, no doubt about it. He likes to get it right. That’s easy to see and it must bode well for his D.K Smith Ltd clients.

Moving on to MIMICO and their newly released Kobelco SK75SR-7. The two machines on-site at the excavator competition seemed to be getting a good rep. Some of the guys I spoke to during the course of the day seemed to like them. At eight tonnes, they say it’s a nice size, and it comes with some very nice mod-cons, such as what you’d expect of any machine from the Kobelco pedigree.

Deals on Wheels tester and MIMICO Excavator Competition judge Josh Simpson reckons they’re a bit of alright as well. Fair play to him, he hasn’t got a Kobelco in the fleet of his civil contracting business yet but says he’s starting to pay closer attention to the green brand. It’s also good to see they don’t play favourites when it comes to selecting judges for the competition each year. It doesn’t get much fairer than that.

The assembled competitors were pretty good if I say so myself. None of the want-to-be champs are lever pullers by any measurement and I dare say it isn’t that often an excavator is required to thread tyres onto a pole or stack a pile of fence posts, but all of them made a decent job of it. Competitions such as this let operators know how they measure up against other professionals.

In this competition, Daniel was the one to use as the litmus paper test. He’s won the MIMICO Excavator Competition for two years in a row and with his healthy lead going into the final round, there wouldn’t be anyone in the crowd who would question him being the favourite for the trip to Christchurch in March. But then again, no one had counted on Murray Nash making the trip down from Waipu.

I had identified Murray not long after the competition had gotten underway, and in a similar style to Daniel, he, too, was carefully watching other operators, hoping for that additional edge to help take out the top slot.

Rural operators like Murray can sometimes have the upper hand at competitions such as this due to the their varied skill base, although, I have seen a few let themselves down when it
comes to precision work, such as tight small
site work. I wondered if Murray had the chops
to take out the multi-skilled Daniel.

Before the final round got underway, I had a quick talk to Murray. At first, equal with Daniel on points, Murray reckoned he’d have to pick the pace up if he was going to close that 17-second gap to beat Daniel. Would he do it? As it turns out, he did. That gap was closed and beaten by less than one second. Yes, that’s correct; that was all that separated Murray Nash and Daniel Smith when it came to the final whistle.

But how can that be I asked? It all sounded a little too close to me, so I sounded Josh out.

“Really? Less than a second difference between first and second place,” I said.

“Yes,” replied Josh. “The other judge and myself were timing each run individually and there was no way of us knowing what each other’s timekeeping was; we just recorded what it was at the finish and passed those times across to the record keeper. It was all legit.”

There is no way I’d not trust Josh’s integrity. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s as honest as the day is long, so if that’s what he said, then that’s ok with me, even if it was just for my own peace of mind.

So, there you have it. After all that competition with the 16 entrants, it was down to a miniscule time difference, with Murray Nash walking away with the top trophy from the 2019 MIMICO Excavator Competition.

Although to be honest, I feel a bit gutted for Daniel; he’s a big man to accept the final result of the judges. I’m impressed by him, but then again, as I said earlier, Daniel knows when to sit tight and watch. There are more competitions coming and I have a feeling he’s just warming up.

Thank you to Randolph and Deals on Wheels for allowing us to publish this article.