The inside story of the JCB Dieselmax land speed record success
Filed under: Supercars
Source: JCB Dieselmax
Diesel engines no longer provoke derision from petrolheads. Their performance on both racetracks and motorways has dispelled the old myths about poor power output. Diesel engines are no longer regarded as fit only for lorries, white vans and diggers. Although taking the engines from two JCBs and setting a land speed record with them did seem to be stretching credibility a bit far. This is exactly what JCB, the company synonymous with diggers, did. The whole remarkable story – from the Chairman's boyhood dream, to the 350.092mph record-breaking runs on 23 August 2006 – is recorded in this book by the project's biographer, David Tremayne.
Although land speed records are established in minutes, the preparation takes years. To faithfully record the myriad ups and downs, the failures and breakthroughs, the joyous times and the disappointments, a writer needs to be embedded with the team and to know about record breaking. Tremayne succeeds on both scores.
Meeting JCB Chairman, Sir Anthony Bamford, for the first time, Tremayne was welcomed as: "…the chap who’s helping us with this…" As a respected motor sport journalist, Tremayne has spent time with Formula One outfits as well as previous land speed record teams. Reflecting on past experiences, in his introduction, Tremayne writes: …hand on heart I can say that the JCB Dieselmax project was the slickest and most enjoyable of them all. Its story was one of world-class engineering, carried out by people who were world class, both professionally and personally.
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As record attempts go, the JCB project was virtually unique – it was fully funded from the start. This means the usual agonising delays while more sponsorship is sought are absent from the story. Instead, it proceeds at a pace with each twin-turbocharged JCB444 diesel engine eventually yielding 750bhp. In July 2006 the car was being tested at over 100mph and approaching the 200mph mark. Just a few weeks later, the first of three records was set at Bonneville, with the magic 350mph barrier broken with the third.
Tantalisingly, it has been calculated that with tyres that are more suitable and a few modifications, JCB Dieselmax should be capable of 400mph. As Tremayne concludes: …regardless of what the future might hold, a very special team had written another fabulous chapter in the story of British endeavour and high achievement in land speed record breaking.
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David Tremayne is the world’s leading authority on land speed records, his most recent book on the subject being the acclaimed Donald Campbell: The Man Behind The Mask. As a journalist, he has been present at many land speed record attempts, including Andy Green’s landmark 763.035 mph supersonic run in 1997. Tremayne's latest offering is a fabulous book which every petrolhead (and dieselhead) should read.