Austrian newcomer Johannes Unger has claimed the Volvo Construction Equipment Operators Club European title 2013 in spectacular style and by just 19 seconds from Swiss nine-time finalist Ueli Hunziker. Germany's Michael Rosendahl took the final step on the podium, just 22 seconds clear of Austria’s Martin Moser in fourth.
The Final this year featured 22 qualifiers from 11 countries across Europe, who converged on Achstetten, some 20 minutes south of the historic town of Ulm in Baden-Württemberg, Germany for the most challenging and hard fought competition in the Club’s 15 year history.
Speaking after his victory, 29 year old Johannes said: “Having joined the Volvo CE Operators Club at bauma in 2010, I only this year entered the competition and was thrilled to make it through to the final. Being my first time I had no real expectations and certainly never thought I’d win. To be standing on the podium with the winner’s trophy is really good. It’s been a perfect day!”
Johannes, who lives in Münster and works for Gubert General Contracting operating a Volvo EC210C excavator added: “Now I’ve won the European Final I hope I’ll get a new D-Series Volvo at work!”
Pan-European competitors master tough challenges
With finalists from the Czech Republic, Luxemburg, Denmark, Belgium, France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy the competition was the most intense to date.
Simply to establish the starting order the various national finalists were challenged to complete a slalom course on a Volvo DD22 compact roller, with the quickest time claiming the final starting position for the competition proper. This comprised two challenges for all 22 finalists with the best ten then going through to the third and final challenge - the combined time from the three deciding the overall winner.
Denmark’s Kasper Winther Iversen certainly shocked the establishment early on with his speedy and controlled handling of the DD22. A course time of just 34 seconds put him on top of a pile in which the top thirteen all completed the course without penalties (incurred by touching the marker cones).
The first round proper saw fellow Dane Jørgen Mortensen lead the way in a challenge that involved digging a hole of at least 50cm x 50cm to a depth of exactly 30cm using a Volvo ECR88D excavator.
To up the ante the excavated material had to be heaped directly behind the hole and neither the material, the excavator bucket or the operator could touch a guiding wire less than 40cm away. With penalties for touching the wire or digging the hole too small or to the wrong depth, concentration, precision digging and an experienced eye were key.
Of the 22 finalists, just one completed the challenge without penalties and in a scintillating time of just 22 seconds – and for the second time in the day it was Denmark’s Kasper Winther Iversen.
With a margin of some 12 seconds over Austrian newcomer Johannes Unger going into Round Two Kasper had the initiative, but an extremely trying challenge with plenty of opportunities to be hit by penalties saw the advantage swing like a tyre on a chain.
Indeed, a swinging tyre was exactly what confronted the finalists as they took to the controls of a Volvo L70G wheeled loader to lift a truck tyre from one platform using a tyre insert hanging from a chain mounted to a fork attachment. Once the tyre was lifted they had to reverse back through a gate and then forwards to place the tyre back on a second platform. Both platforms were surrounded by four columns, each supporting a tennis ball, with penalties accrued for each displaced ball.
Just five of the 22 managed to complete the challenge without penalties, but it was Johannes Unger who seized the initiative with a time that was some 27 seconds quicker than anyone else and a massive 59 seconds quicker than Kasper. Round Two also saw Switzerland’s nine-time finalist Ueli Hunziker jump up the leaderboard with the fifth fastest time, 25 seconds adrift of Johannes’ benchmark.
Six nations make the cut
At the cut, finalists from six countries remained in the competition. While Austria, Germany and Switzerland dominated the leaderboard, the result was far from a foregone conclusion and there was certainly anticipation that on earlier form Kasper could yet surprise. Marc Schiling from Luxemburg and the UK’s Phil Port were also through and with the added pressure of the final challenge being crucial to the outcome it was still all to play for.
The final challenge involved building a three high tower of breezeblocks using a Volvo ECR145D short tail swing excavator. The blocks had to be moved and placed using the teeth of the bucket and then a pail of sand had to be successfully placed on top of the tower.
The UK’s Phil Port set the benchmark with a time of 03:07, but this was soon piped by Marc Schiling. As the Round advanced Germany’s Marco Schöneck had the benchmark down to a fraction over 2 minutes and then Austria’s Martin Moser and Switzerland’s Ueli Hunziker smashed the two minute barrier with times of 01:49 and 01:43 minutes respectively.
Penultimate starter for the final challenge was early star Kasper Winther Iversen, but a dropped block and the resulting penalty dashed any hopes he had and a time of 03:43 saw him plummet down the order to claim ninth overall.
It was in this pressure-cooker environment that final starter Johannes Unger took to the controls of the ECR145D. The following minutes could have been agony for the newcomer, but he remained as cool and as focused as it’s possible to be and a calm and controlled performance saw him cut the timing beams at 02:12 minutes.
A few final tense moments gripped the top 10 as the referees calculated the overall times, but once the calculations were checked and double checked the podium positions were announced.
VP Marketing for Volvo CE Sales Region EMEA (Europe – Middle East – Africa) Mike Humphrey said: “Firstly, I would like to congratulate all 22 finalists. This year’s competition saw over 2,000 entrants from across Europe, so to make it to the final in the first place is something of which they should all be extremely proud.”
“I am delighted that the Volvo CE Operators Club is giving machine operators both recognition and the chance to socialize and compete against each other. We at Volvo CE are extremely proud of the Club and I am delighted to announce that it will be even bigger in 2014 as Russia will be joining.”
Result of Volvo CE Operators Club European Final 2013
||Kasper Winther Iversen
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Tel: +44 (0) 207 107 2003