JCB, the fifth largest manufacturer of construction equipment in the world,
will make a land speed record attempt this August in a bid to earn its
purpose-designed streamliner car the title of "World’s Fastest Diesel". To reach
speeds of over 300 mph (480 km/h), JCB has developed the world’s most powerful
automotive diesel engine, with a specific power of 150hp per litre.
The aim is to set a new record in excess of 300 mph. The current FIA mark
stands at 235.756 mph to Virgil W Snyder and the Thermo King Streamliner, a
record that dates back to 1973.
The JCB DIESELMAX streamliner will be driven by Wing Commander Andy Green,
who set the first-ever supersonic world land speed record at 763.035 mph in
ThrustSSC on the Black Rock Desert on 15 October 1997.
The innovative car has been designed by a team led by JCB Group Engineering
Director Dr Tim Leverton. Richard Noble, the former land speed record-holder,
has acted as a consultant to the project, and JCB has worked with long-term
technology partner Ricardo plc to develop the JCB444-LSR engine.
The record attempt will be made at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The Production Engine
The land speed record engine is based on the JCB444 production diesel which
is fitted to the 4CX, 3CX and 2CX JCB backhoe loaders and Loadall telescopic
The JCB444 is a four-cylinder in-line mid-range diesel with four valves per
cylinder and a 1.1-litre per cylinder design concept, hence the 444
nomenclature. With a bore and stroke of 103 mm x 132 mm, it displaces 4400cc and
comes in a range of performance classifications, ranging from 74 and 84hp
naturally aspirated up to 100hp turbo-charged and 125hp charge-cooled
turbo-charged. Peak torque at only 1300 rpm is 320, 425, 525 and 620 Nm
The JCB444 Land Speed Record Engine
JCB’s purpose in creating the world’s fastest diesel automobile is to prove
the versatility of the standard JCB444 engine, and to validate its inherent
excellence in a totally different – and extremely demanding – engineering
"Our intention all along with the speed record project was to use a standard
engine block, cylinder head and bedplate," explained Dr Leverton. "I set that
task at the very beginning. I wanted it to be the standard design block and have
exactly the same fundamental architecture. It had to be recognisably the JCB444
But how do you take what is basically a bulletproof industrial engine and
turn it into a record-breaking powerplant?
"The JCB444 has been designed with a very stiff bottom end. It’s designed to
sit there for hours and hours and hours, chugging out the required horsepower.
It’s an incredibly tough, long-life engine and therefore has the inherent
strength to cope with the very high cylinder pressures generated when harnessing
two-stage turbocharging to boost power to 750hp."
The land speed record engine develops almost 1500 Nm of torque at 2500 rpm,
with a rev limit of 3800 rpm. Each engine will be laid over in the car -
inclined at an angle of 10 degrees from the horizontal - to minimise the frontal
area of the machine.
The DIESELMAX engines have been designed using Ricardo’s High Speed Diesel
Race (HSDR) direct-injection combustion technology. Fuel is delivered via two
parallel high-pressure pumps to a common-rail system delivering an injection
pressure of 1600 bar. The cylinder head has been modified to enable the larger
injectors required for the HSDR system. However, demonstrating the robust design
of the original JCB444 engine, the valvetrain is carried over substantially in
its original form, with the exception of high-temperature specification exhaust
valves, up-rated valve springs and a modified camshaft profile.
A completely re-designed piston is used with a large, quiescent combustion
chamber that has a reduced overall compression ratio and specific features to
reduce the risk of thermal damage to the combustion chamber components. Piston
cooling has been assured by doubling the size of the original oil-cooling jets
and providing supplementary cooling jets, which together increase the cooling
oil flow for each piston by around 600 per cent. A completely new,
fully-machined connecting rod is incorporated, including a significantly
enlarged small-end bearing to increase strength and robustness. While giving a
longer stroke, the billet-machined crankshaft retains the main and big-end
bearing sizes and bearing shells.
Ricardo calculated that for the speed record attempt, the two engines would
require an intake airflow of almost five tonnes per hour. Moreover, this would
need to be delivered at the 1300 metre altitude of the Bonneville Salt Flats,
where ambient air pressure is 85 per cent of that at sea level. While the
production engine requires a boost pressure of 2 bar, the two engines installed
in DIESELMAX require 5.2 bar absolute at full power. The scale of this challenge
can be appreciated in comparison with around 3 bar absolute for a diesel Le Mans
racer, and around 4 bar for the turbo-era Formula 1 cars.
In meeting this significant air-handling challenge, Ricardo developed a
two-stage turbo-charger system with both inter-stage and after-cooling, in order
to deliver the required airflow across the engine speed range in Bonneville
conditions. A water-injection system provides a further level of charge-cooling
to protect the pistons and valves in this ultimate test of durability.
A radiator would have created too much aerodynamic drag, so Ricardo designed
a cooling system based around a 200-litre water and ice tank in the nose of the
vehicle. The system makes use of the latent heat required to melt the ice in
addition to the low temperature of the water.
Each engine delivers peak power of 750hp and torque of 1500 Nm. This is over
five times the power of the production version and, at 150 hp/litre, the engines
exceed even motorsports applications as the world’s highest specific power
diesel car engines.
John Piper, the project’s chief designer says: "In a Formula 1 team,
efficiency is key. You spend a lot of money trying to provide the engineering to
deliver that. The problem is that nobody has done this type of record car
before, so you can’t walk down the pit-lane and go, ‘Ooh, that’s a good idea.’
And there are no regulations that guide you. There aren’t any markers anywhere.
The only markers really are the laws of physics. That’s what makes it so
It’s not only the body shape of a record-breaker that needs to be highly
aerodynamically efficient but also the underside, because the air flowing under
the car accounts for about one-half of the total aerodynamic drag.
Project aerodynamicist Ron Ayers believes that the interaction between tyre
and salt can significantly affect aerodynamic efficiency: salt and debris thrown
up by the car’s passage slow it down. To minimise this drag, he has very
carefully shaped not just the spats around the lower section of the wheels, but
also the flow of air through the choke points between the wheels. Spray beneath
the front of the car is deflected outwards, ensuring the rear wheels and tyres
run on as clean a surface as possible.
For very practical reasons, all of the aerodynamics study was done via
computational fluid dynamics (CFD), not in a wind tunnel.
"Even at the speeds we envisage," Ayers explained, "compressibility effects
are beginning to become significant. Indeed, in the region near the wheel/ground
contact points, the local airflow actually goes supersonic. We could not
simulate such effects in a low-speed wind tunnel with a rolling road.
"The second reason is one of scale. To fit our long, slender vehicle into a
tunnel with a rolling road would have meant restricting ourselves to a model
scale of about one-sixth and the errors would have been too great."
The main changes as the shape evolved were to lengthen the nose and round it
off, to lengthen the tail and to minimise the frontal area. At every stage Ayers
had to achieve the optimal balance between aerodynamic drag, skin drag (the
larger the surface area, the higher the skin drag) and downforce. If the car is
envisaged as an arrow or a dart, it is the tail fin that acts as the flights to
maintain stability at maximum speed.
The overall result is an outstandingly beautiful and effective car with a
drag coefficient of 0.174 Cd and a CdA of 0.153m2 – extraordinary even by land
speed record standards.
Besides the aerodynamics and generation of sufficient horsepower, the other
crucial area for any wheel-driven land speed record contender is the tyres. The
thorny problem of sourcing them fell to David Brown, Project Chief Engineer.
"After the salt conditions, the tyres are the biggest challenge," Brown said.
"It is critical to have the right rubber, because you cannot play Russian
Roulette with a man’s life."
The technical data supplied for commercially available tyres made it
difficult to assess their suitability for supporting a 2700 kg car travelling at
300+ mph. Tyre data should include maximum speed, load rating and running
pressure; most proprietary Bonneville tyres come only with a speed rating and no
indication of how that was calculated.
After investigating, and discounting, aircraft tyres (their performance was
too difficult to predict) the team finally opted for 23 x 15 racing tyres,
rig-testing them to ensure JCB DIESELMAX can run at 300 mph plus.
The general arrangement of JCB DIESELMAX places the front engine and its
transmission ahead of the driver’s safety cell, and the rear engine and
This layout is attractive not just because of the optimisation of weight
distribution but because it places the driver in the best possible position to
monitor the behaviour of the car, and the safest place should there be an
Chief Designer John Piper has opted for a 50 mm square-tube steel spaceframe
chassis. This is the most cost-efficient way of producing a vehicle that must be
both prototype and finished product, since it allows changes to be made much
more simply than might be the case with a carbon-fibre composite structure
(which, in any case, would not be allowed under the SCTA-BNI rules that govern
Bonneville Speedweek). The cockpit cell is a bespoke carbon-fibre composite
bathtub monocoque structure with mandatory SCTA steel tube rollover cage. The
nine-litre, wedge-shaped fuel cell is located behind the driver’s seat.
A three-piece composite underfloor completes the basic structure, and is
bolted and bonded to the bottom of the chassis to enhance stiffness.
Two six-speed bespoke gearboxes are employed, one for each engine. The
gearbox is mated to the engine using a JCB-designed stepper gearbox arrangement
utilising oil-immersed multi-plate clutch packs from JCB’s flagship 3CX backhoe
loader. A torque tube encloses the gearbox and connects the final drive to the
rest of the driveline.
Gear-shifting in both boxes is synchronised and controlled electronically
with shift actuation via steering wheel-mounted paddle switches.
Traction control will not be used, not just because it is outlawed by
SCTA-BNI regulations, but also because the aim all along has been to keep the
car as simple as possible. Because of the salt’s Mu factor (the coefficient of
grip) – 0.6 – wheelspin will be the limiting factor in the car’s acceleration
A conventional rack and pinion system provides steering to the front wheels.
There will be no power-assistance and the ratio will provide seven degrees of
lock and a likely turning circle of around a quarter of a mile. The plan at
turnaround between each run is to lift the car and rotate it on a specially
JCB DIESELMAX will employ a dual-circuit, triple braking system comprising
friction brakes on all four wheels, driver-activated engine braking, and
Using an innovative bespoke system, the carbon brake rotors are clamped not
by conventional six-pot racing calipers, but instead by brake pistons mounted
within the wheel upright. The pistons are activated by a torque tube which
pushes them hydraulically into contact with a stator that clamps the
wheel-driven rotor. The system provides enhanced swept area and effectiveness,
and the aim is to provide a friction brake system capable of stopping the car in
an emergency, such as complete failure of the twin-parachute back-up system.
John Piper pointed out: "The car is four times as heavy and almost twice as
fast as a Formula 1 car, so there is a lot of mass to stop and a great deal of
heat to dissipate. This system enables us to get as big a brake as possible
within the 15-inch wheels, which will be turning at 5500 rpm, or twice the speed
of rotation of a Formula 1 car’s."
Conventional, heavy-duty wishbone suspension is used front and rear, with
coil springs and hydraulic dampers.
Engine: Two JCB444-LSR common-rail injection diesels, bored and stroked to
5000 cc, dry-sumped and inclined at 10
Two-stage turbo-chargers with intercooling and after cooling
Ice tank cooling (capacity 200 litres).
Power: 750hp (560 kW) at 3800 rpm
Torque: 1105 lb ft (1500 Nm) at 2500 rpm
Fuel tank capacity: 9 litres
Transmission: Forward transmission and final drive connected to forward
engine; rear transmission and final drive unit connected to rear engine.
Six-speed barrel-shift transmissions driven through torsional dampers and
oil-immersed multi-plate clutches.
Steering: Rack and pinion, to front wheels
Brakes: Split circuit; unique design carbon rotors and twin stators.
Exhaust brakes for front and rear engines, manually operated.
Suspension: Independent all round via twin wishbones,
coil springs and hydraulic dampers.
Chassis: Hybrid square steel tube spaceframe with
bonded carbon composite panels
Body: Aerodynamically designed (CdA <0.15); carbon composite materials
Wheels and tyres: 23 x 15
Length: 9091 mm
Width: 1145 mm
Height: 979 mm (to top of canopy, at run speed)
1337 mm (to top of fin)
Front track: 800 mm
Rear track: 600 mm
Wheelbase: 5878 mm
Weight: 2700 kg including fuel, oil, ice and water coolant and driver
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