For much of the last year, Guy Martin has been working with JCB and Williams Advanced Engineering to build the world’s fastest tractor. The team took a standard JCB Fastrac, which was capable of only 41mph (66km/h), and turned it into record-breaking vehicle that hit a peak speed of nearly 154mph (248km/h) at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire, UK.
Without major modifications to the tractor’s aerodynamics, however, Martin would have had little chance of beating the previous record of 87.3mph (140km/h). His eventual average speed from the two-way run set a new benchmark of 135.2mph (217.6km/h).
Williams Advanced Engineering’s head of aerodynamics, Ian Turner, commented, “I’ve never worked on a tractor before; we have worked on some strange projects but this is certainly the largest physical piece of machinery we’ve ever been involved with.”
Ricardo Engineering was also brought in to help with the build. The team used virtual reality software which enabled Turner to join them from the Williams factory without actually having to travel to Ricardo’s base on the south coast of the UK. Using VR and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), the team analyzed the airflow around the tractor and designed lightweight aerodynamic panels including a new front bumper to smooth the airflow underneath. They also removed the mirrors, adapted the rear farings to close the wake and reduce drag, and modified the air intakes for the turbo.
The result is a 25% reduction in total drag, and it’s this, coupled with the 1,000hp engine, that enabled the team to claim the record.
“This has been a challenging and fascinating project, one that really showcases the effect that aerodynamic optimization can have on speed and versatility of CFD applications. In this instance, we’ve been able to bring experience from race car design to an agricultural vehicle and, in doing so, have achieved significant aerodynamic improvements,” Turner said.
“We are proud to have played an integral role in the project and would like to offer our huge congratulations to the team at JCB and its partner companies for breaking the world speed record for a tractor.”