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World's fastest tractor made possible by Shropshire engineers

By Mat Growcott | Newport | News | Published:

Here's a tractor you wouldn't mind being stuck behind.

The tractor

The Fastrac Two has sped into the record books - and it has been made possible thanks to people in and around Shropshire.

The tractor, which actually hit more than 153mph during one of its two runs, involved work from the engineering team at GKN Wheels and Structures in Telford, and former students from Harper Adams.

Following two successful runs at Elvington Airfield in York, the JCB Fastrac Two broke the world record for a tractor, achieving a peak speed of 153.771mph and an average of 135.191mph.

With the previous record of 103.6mph having been set by JCB’s Fastrac One in June, the project team embarked on a plan to make their creation 10 per cent lighter and even more streamlined.

The team behind the world's fastest tractor, along with documentary presenter Guy Martin

Paul Turner, design engineer at GKN Wheels, said: "Our design and engineering teams love to respond to a challenge and so we were delighted when JCB asked us to be involved.

“Throughout the project we worked closely with JCB’s engineers and alongside other project partners, drawing on our experience and expertise in engineering, prototype design and manufacture to deliver products that met the requirements of this unique project.

“We are proud to have been a supplier to JCB for more than 30 years, and in the last ten years alone have supplied over one million wheels to the company globally and 22,000 chassis. Having developed extremely close working relationships across the business, it was great to have the opportunity to work together and to demonstrate our capabilities on Fastrac Two.”

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The JCB Project Manager was Alex Skittery, an alumnus of the MEng Agricultural Engineering course at Harper Adams.

“I first got the chance to work on the project 12 months ago when I was working for Lord Bamford,” he said. “I was soon put in charge of running the project and working out with the team how we were going to make a tractor break a Guinness World Record.

“Fast forward and here we are, with the world’s fastest tractor!

The tractor

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“The great thing about Harper is that you don’t just spend loads of time learning about things in the lecture theatre, you learn how to apply knowledge to the real world; something which was really useful on this project."

Further Harper engineering alumni involved in the project were Adam Sansom and Richard Cadman, along with current MEng Agricultural Engineering student Alan Mobbs.

For the Fastrac Two wheels, GKN designed a new system that you cope with different load requirements and allow the designers to use different front and rear wheel offets.

For the new lightweight chassis, JCB provided the initial design, based on the standard tractor chassis which GKN Structures has been supplying since 2011, but re-designed to provide a much lower centre of gravity. Following early trials, the company was then tasked with delivering additional weight savings, with the chassis ultimately weighing-in nearly 25 per cent lighter than the standard production unit.

As the unique design could not be built on the company’s usual tooling, the chassis was manufactured in GKN Structures’ dedicated prototype facility, with every part having to be hand set and tacked prior to welding by hand.

Jamie Dobson, manufacturing engineer at GKN Structures, said: “Although the initial design was a revision of the Fastrac One project, as the programme developed, so the brief changed. Our team of engineers certainly rose to the challenge though, helping achieve the all-important, additional weight savings.

The tractor

"Although out of the ordinary, this project demonstrated the benefits of true collaboration, with a number of different manufacturers, each experts in their own field, coming together to achieve something quite extraordinary.”

JCB Chairman Lord Bamford praised the achievement.

“When we reached 103.6mph with the Fastrac in the summer, I was convinced we could go even faster, and the JCB team has risen to the challenge by setting this new record," he said. "It’s an amazing achievement delivered by a young and enthusiastic engineering team. Everyone involved should be very proud of the part they have played in showing off British engineering at its very best.”

Tim Burnhope, JCB chief innovation and growth officer, said: “The biggest challenges have included aerodynamics, reducing weight and improving performance – getting a five-tonne tractor to safely reach 150mph, and stop again, is not an easy task, but we’re all so proud to have not only reached these goals, but to have exceeded them.”

The story of the tractors development and record attempt was told in The World's Fastest Tractor, a TV documentary which aired on Channel 4 on November 17.

Mat Growcott

By Mat Growcott
Reporter - @MGrowcott_Star

Shropshire Star reporter

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