JCB has broken the world speed record for a tractor and GKN Wheels & Structures was one of the key partners that helped the auto maker achieve the feat. Following two successful runs at Elvington Airfield in York, UK, the JCB Fastrac reached a peak speed of 153.771mph (247.470km/h) and an average of 135.191mph (217.569km/h).
With the previous record of 103.6mph (166.7km/h) having been set by JCB’s Fastrac One in June 2019, the project team embarked on an ambitious plan to break the record again with Fastrac Two – which was 10% lighter and even more streamlined than its predecessor.
Having been involved in the design of the wheels and chassis for the first world record, GKN Wheels & Structures was again invited to work with JCB’s team of young engineers to develop and manufacture wheels and a lightweight chassis that were capable of meeting the additional challenges of Fastrac Two.
GKN Wheels’ design engineer, Paul Turner, explained, “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.”
For the Fastrac Two wheels, the company developed a product capable of not only working with the new tire design, but also of coping with different load requirements and different front and rear offsets – compared to the standard Fastrac tractor wheel. After producing a number of prototypes for trials, the final specification was agreed for a 12 x 28in wheel and the new discs and rims were manufactured and assembled at GKN Wheels’ Telford plant. The wheels were then finished in the plant’s new electro-coat and powder-coat facility to produce an enhanced, automotive-standard finish.
Turner added, “The initial remit was to provide standard wheels to fit standard tires. However this changed during the development program, and called for tighter tolerances in the run out requirements. The combination of the size change, offset requirements and highest possible quality standards, drove the final product specification for this exiting project.”
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 center of gravity. Following early trials, the company was then tasked with delivering additional weight savings, with the chassis ultimately weighing-in nearly 25% 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 protype 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 program developed, so the brief changed. Our team of engineers certainly rose to the challenge though, helping achieve the all-important, additional weight savings.”