Though many would like to see this tractor pull a grain trailer, JCB’s record-breaking Fastrac tractor had one goal and one goal only; to set a new a new British speed record for a tractor.
James Rickard was there to witness the momentous occasion...
Twenty eight years to the day since the first Fastrac tractor rolled off the production line, on June 20, 2019 JCB celebrated in style by setting a new British speed record with a tractor.
Achieving a speed of 103.6mph, the record cements the tractor’s original ethos as a fast tractor. However, the day started rather ominously as a sudden shower engulfed the ex-World War II Elvington Airfield. Thankfully, the only thing resembling the sound of thunder was the tractor hurtling towards its record. And at 3.22pm it was official, JCB had set a new British record with a British-built tractor.
Behind the wheel, the tractor was piloted by non-other than tea-loving truck mechanic and engineering enthusiast Guy Martin. Here’s his reaction:
The ambition by the company to set a speed record with the Fastrac has been a long time coming. JCB’s chief innovation officer Tim Burnhope explains; “Ever since the Fastrac was conceived in 1984, we have always wanted to emphasise what the Fastrac is capable of. For us, setting a record underlines that capability.
“More importantly, we wanted to do it properly and keep the tractor as true to its roots as possible. There are many records out there, but most are achieved with machines that at best vaguely represent a tractor.”
Full video coming soon
It may be recalled that recent speed records include BBC’s TopGear which ‘loosely’ created a tractor that achieved 87.27mph, and prior to this Valtra which set a speed of 80.88mph.
JCB is also no stranger to land speed records. In 2006, its DieselMax Streamliner set a new diesel land speed record when it reached 350.092mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA, using two JCB DieselMax engines. It is a record that still stands to this day. Crucially, this attempt was only made possible by the use of a Fastrac which had to push start the car for every run.
With this vivid memory still fresh in the mind of JCB engineers, and encouraged by its recent collaborations with Guy Martin’s TV shows, most notably the restoration of World War I tank, the company began work on a high speed version of the Fastrac last autumn.
Working on the project was a core team of 10 people, drafted in from several different departments throughout the company. “One of the big aims of the project was to give our young engineers in particular, our future talent, an opportunity to work on and experience something incredible,” says Mr Burnhope. “It was really great to see the design team follow the project through and become the performance test team.”
Several notable partner companies were also brought in to help with the modifications including Williams Advanced Engineering, which aided in the design of the aerodynamics package, and Ricardo, which was heavily involved with the tuning of the engine.
So now JCB has set a new British speed record, what is next? Technically, JCB has already beaten the official Guinness World Record for a tractor speed record set by TopGear, however, it really wants to put to bed any unofficial challengers too. Mr Burnhope comments; “When we go for the world record, it wants to be undisputed.”
Having been involved in several record attempts, including fastest speed on a gravity-powered snow sled, fastest speed in a soapbox and highest speed on a wall of death, Guy was the ideal candidate to take on the challenge.
Like many of his endeavours, Guy’s involvement will be aired on TV later this year, which follows him and JCB throughout the tractor’s development, taking in design, manufacturing and testing processes.
While by its very nature the standard Fastrac is a fast tractor (up to 50mph depending on markets), it has taken quite a few modifications to get it to the top side of 100mph. Size-wise it is based on a Fastrac 4000 Series, but draws upon the heavier-duty components of the 8000, as well as parts and expertise throughout JCB.
Having worked on the DieselMax world record in 2006, JCB’s group director of powertrains, Alan Tolley talks us through the finer details of the tractor.