It is a brave move introducing a new brand of tractors to the UK, especially when the target market is small, specialised and comes with some hefty price tags - not to mention the fierce competition from long- established firms.
However, that is what importer JPM Agricultural has done with the re-introduction of the Versatile brand and its range of Delta Track tracked tractors.
Armed with a wealth of knowledge gained from servicing Case IH Quadtracs, JPM Agricultural managing director James Hunt says he has a product which can take the fight to the old guard.
He says: “Key selling points of the Delta Track are its simplicity and low running costs, coupled with well-known, proven components such as the Cummins engine and Cat transmission.
Three models make up the current offering - 450DT, 500DT and 550DT - with peak powers of 500hp, 550hp and 591hp respectively.
Power comes from 15-litre Cummins engines which meet Stage 3b emissions regulations.
Exhaust after-treatment is taken care of via cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and a diesel particulate filter (DPF), so there is no need for AdBlue.
Transmitting power to the tracks is a 16 by four speed Caterpillar full powershift transmission.
Versatile has designed its own axles, based on components used in open cast mine trucks, so they should stand some punishment.
The track frame is designed and built in conjunction with track-maker Camoplast.
Robustness, efficiency and ease of maintenance seems to be the aim of the game here - drive lug width is a fat 216mm (8.5in). That, coupled with a 960mm (38in) diameter drive wheel, provides plenty of contact to transmit power. When it comes to swapping a mid-roller, these can be unbolted from individual hubs instead of having to swap the whole mid-roller.
Interestingly, the track units feature one less set of mid-rollers than the competition. The manufacturer claims this offers a smoother ride, especially when it comes to traversing lumps and bumps, as you do not get that ‘rocking’ effect created by a centre mid-roller balancing on top of the lump or bump. Track width options are 762mm or 914mm (30in or 36in).
To get an impression of the new tractor we tasked a 500DT with cultivating duties operating a six-metre wide Great Plains SLD 600.
Up top, the operator gets the biggest cab in the industry - nearly 5cu.m (177cu.ft). You could almost play hide and seek in it.
Primary controls come from a right-hand, seat-mounted console containing transmission, direction, throttle and hydraulic controls.
Automated functions include headland management and memory settings for the revs.
Some tractor functions can be monitored and set up via a 178mm (7in) screen such as spool flow and timing.
Instead, fuel tanks are saddle-mounted either side and under the cab. As fuel levels drop, this offers better tractor balance, says the manufacturer, maintaining a weight distribution of 55:45 front to back. Tanks are connected and can be filled either side.
Unfortunately, on early models the cab steps were mounted on the outside of the tanks, which stick out are fair way. Versatile has addressed this for newer models and now the steps are recessed into the tank.
The tractors can be specified as full auto-guidance ready from the factory using a Trimble system, or JPM will fit a customer’s own choice of system.
Thanks to swathes of glass, visibility is good all-round, although the exhaust stack which is positioned at the front right-hand corner of the cab is pretty noticeable.
Powered by Cummins, we were expecting an impressive throaty bark from the stack. Unfortunately, classic engine noises of yesteryear are a thing of the past thanks to the muffling effects of all the after treatment systems. It still had quite a bellowing noise though, akin to
a 747 taking off.
Torque was plentiful, and to keep engine response up, the motor is fitted with a variable geometry turbocharger (VGT) which adapts to changing conditions. It does this well - particularly when dropping the implement into work, the engine responds with a surge of power.
Transmission is smooth, although with all that torque you can play with the revs a lot more and save the transmission.
For instance, in our relatively light ground conditions we could bring the revs right down to 1,600rpm and still comfortably maintain 10 to 12kph. We could have gone even faster, but the implement started to ‘wag’.
At the rear, four double-acting spools are fitted as standard. Six can be specified as an option as can a category four, three point linkage.
Not having the diesel tank positioned here, means there are good views to the drawbar for hitching up.
It is really hard to drive this machine without having a Case IH Quadtrac in the back of your mind, and every effort made by Versatile will be directly compared with the industry stalwart.
That said, there are some novel design elements to the Delta Track, such as the saddle tanks, robustness of the track units and simplicity.
Depending on application, weight could be an issue, especially for lighter work. However, for deep cultivations, its 27 tonne weight definitely puts the power down.
Despite JPM Agricultural only being a small firm, its tracked tractor knowledge and the Delta Track’s well known components such as Cummins and Cat, with their respective UK backup network, should provide potential customers with a fair amount of confidence in the product.
Mr Hunt also says he wants to appoint dealers throughout the UK to offer backup for the machines.
It is possible JPM Agricultural may bring in other Versatile products such as its wheeled tractors, but for now it wants to concentrate on supplying and supporting the Delta Tracks.