If you want a utility all-action 4×4, you expect it to be more upright, and equally if you want a 0-60mph in less than 5 seconds sports car, you would expect your car to be low slung and aerodynamic. But what if you’re breaking world speed records in a vehicle that’s even more sit up and beg than your average all wheel drive vehicle?
Guy Martin is more associated with riding fast motorcycles and being an affable TV personality with a bit of an engineering bent. Indeed, he has a pretty impressive record in the Isle of Man TT, and although not yet achieving a first place, he is regularly a top 5 finisher. He has had more luck in the Southern 100, a motorcycle road race also held on the Isle of Man, achieving a couple of first places.
Watching Guy on TV, it’s clear that he has a need for speed – and with a background in mechanics, a curiosity about how things work and how things achieve the speeds that they do, he is ideally placed for such fun and bizarre quests. So it was no real surprise to hear that Guy Martin is now the proud holder of the record for the fastest tractor.
I can see the appeal, if vehicles designed to go fast are designed to cut through the air as a necessity, how can a tractor be engineered to defy logic and (to a certain extent) science and go so fast – and what on earth must that feel like?
The project was all part of a collaboration between Guy and Channel 4 for a programme called Guy Martin: The World’s Fastest Tractor (still available on All 4). The programme followed Guy as he sought to break the existing record, which had been set by The Stig on Top Gear in 2018. The Stig achieved 87.2mph in a modified 500-horsepower tractor, sporting a Chevrolet 5.7-litre V8 engine and some bright Lamborghini orange paint that looked more like a Wacky Races dragster than a tractor.
Martin’s weapon of choice was a modified JCB tractor. The JCB Fastrac 4000 normally has a top speed of around 40mph, so this was going to be some achievement.
To start with, the team called in Williams Engineering to assist. Williams are better known for achieving amazing results within Formula 1, so safe to say that this was going to be a bit of a different challenge. The team uprated and modified the existing engine beyond its standard 220bhp-350bhp, turning the engine into a 1,000bhp powerhouse with a new 6-speed transmission. All potentially of little use if the beast can’t slice through the air of course, and cutting edge VR tech enabled the Fastrac to be given a little more in the way of aerodynamics than it would normally have. Amazingly though, the team say that around 50 per cent is still a standard tractor.
Guy’s first attempt took place in June, where he achieved the dream of getting the Fastrac over 100mph, reaching 103.64mph. But the team though they could do better, and further tweaking along with a further attempt was scheduled.
The latest record attempt took place at Elvington Airfield, which has one of the longest runways in the UK. The site near York would be perfect to allow enough run-time for Guy to get the 1,000bhp Fastrac 400 tractor up to a new record breaking speed.
It’s fair to say that the result was probably beyond the team’s expectations, achieving a top speed of 153.77mph and averaging a speed of 135.19mph over a series of runs. Oh and as to what it felt like, Guy said: “It doesn’t feel that fast. It’s a big open place you don’t have anything to reference your speed.”
But then he would think that; he’s Guy Martin after all: “I just like going fast. If it’s something a bit risky I’m all for it.”
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