Because of the low compression ratio, combustion doesn’t come easily if temperatures are too low so there is a grid heater to pre-warm air at low speeds (yes, that’s reheating air that has just passed through a massive intercooler), but this heater switches out as speeds and revs rise because the thinking is that there’s sufficient heat to keep combustion going nicely. In between those two states, though – once the grid heaters are off but before the tractor is going flat out – it doesn’t run happily. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the sort of low, constant speed that we like to drive at for photos and video. Here, the Fastrac Two is such a smoking, banging, recalcitrant mess that at one point we thought it had exploded. If you want to run at tractory speeds, then, you can’t: it likes to be at idle, or flat out.
And flat out, it’s amazing. A support car like a Ford Ranger Raptor struggles to keep pace with it, even in its 500bhp tune. The performance figures on full power show it reaches 60mph from rest in 9.86sec, but the way this huge, five-tonne machine keeps on pulling is what’s so impressive.
Even on a far shorter runway and with much less power than during the record run at Elvington, we saw 112mph, which would have made us land speed record holders earlier this year and still leaves us the second-fastest tractor drivers in the world (if you don’t count JCB’s in-house testers). Which is quite pleasing.
Once rolling, it’s surprisingly easy to keep the WFT going fast. After gearchanges, the clutch and engine take-up is no more difficult than in a regular car, you’ll never miss a gear on the big-gated manual gearbox and the in-gear flexibility comes without holes or torque gap. It’s a smooth and responsive if noisy engine.
But then there’s the stopping. There are air brakes, massively over-served, and the standard discs are just as up to the job of stopping five tonnes from 150mph a few times on a runway as they are nine tonnes plus whatever it’s towing countless times on the road. But you’ll remember we said there is no on-board compressor: instead, two air canisters on the back must be filled before each outing, because they provide air to the system, and once they’re empty, they’re empty, and you’ll have no braking apart from an ineffectual parachute. The engineers think there are 40 stops in the tanks and they usually recharge well before 20. But still, worth remembering.
Handling and stability
The Fastrac Two runs nitrogen dampers on its three-link suspension, with live axles front and rear, and although the cabin is not suspended, ride comfort is pliant. Granted, we’re only running it on a runway, not in a field.