It was an event a year in the making. Over 10,000 operators from 30 countries participated in local operator challenges held by 70 Cat dealers worldwide. Less than 100 semifinalists proving their mettle at the local level met on four different continents to compete in the regional championships held in late 2019. In the end, nine showed their superior mastery of not only the machine but also the technology inside to earn a spot in the finals.
The finals of Caterpillar’s historic, year-long Global Operator Challenge took place on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, inside Operator Stadium at the Caterpillar outdoor CONEXPO-CON/AGG Festival Grounds exhibit. Broken into three teams of three – Team Americas, Team Europe and Team Asia – the nine finalists competed individually and as teams as they faced three different skills challenges.
The event kicked off at 9:30 a.m. with the “Load & Carry” challenge, where each operator used the Cat 962M wheel loader with Production Measurement technology to load and move material through specified locations in the course. The “Control to a Tee” challenge began with operators teeing off using a Cat 302 mini excavator then navigating a course before sinking a putt with the golf ball. During the final “In the Trenches” challenge, operators showed off their trenching skills using a Cat 325 excavator equipped with Grade with 2D technology.
Finals scoring consisted of speed, accuracy and operating best practices with penalties imposed for errors. Awards were presented to the overall event champion, the individual with the lowest time in each skills challenge and the team with the lowest combined score.
In the end, Jaus Neigum (Canada), the Americas West champion, was crowned the best of the best, Global Operator Challenge Champion with an overall low-time score of 16:28 for all three events.
“I’m walking on air right now,” says Jaus Neigum. “This was absolutely amazing. What a great experience and Caterpillar should be so proud with what they’ve done here today. They made history.”
In second place with a combined time of 18:02 was Thomas Murphy (Ireland), Europe champion. Third place was awarded to Sebastian Behr (Germany), Europe champion with a combined time of 20:30.
Other awards presented were:
- “Load & Carry” winner – Jaus Neigum, the Americas West region champion with a time of 3:31.
- “Control to a Tee” winner – Thomas Murphy, the Europe champion with a time of 4:16.
- “In the Trenches” winner – Jaus Neigum, the Americas West champion with a time of 6:48.
- The Team Europe champion consisting of Sebastian Behr, Bruno Grossen, Thomas Murphy, with the lowest combined team average time of 20:49.
The nine finalists were:
- Ben Sandy – Americas East Champion with 14 years as an operator
- Jaus Neigum – Americas West Champion with 20 years as an operator
- Marcio Verissimo – South American Champion with 9 years as an operator
- Bruno Grossen – Europe Champion with 28 years as an operator
- Sebastian Behr – Europe Champion with 38 years as an operator
- Thomas Murphy – Europe Champion with 16 years as an operator
- Hiroyuki Harada – Asia Champion with 24 years as an operator
- Wilfren Jimenez – Asia Champion with 12 years as an operator
- Yuji Tanaka – Asia Champion with 20 years as an operator