Guy Martin has set the record for the fastest tractor modified at 135.191 mph

Any driver knows the frustrations of getting stuck behind a slow-moving tractor.

There’s no danger of that happening here though. British enginnering firm JCB has made the world’s fastest tractor (modified), and who better to drive it than lorry mechanic, motorcycle racer and thrill seeker Guy Martin.

Guy already has records for the the fastest speed on a gravity-powered snow sled (134.368 km/h 83.49 mph), the fastest soapbox (137.78 km/h 85.61 mph) and highest speed on a Wall of Death (25.77 km/h 78.15 mph).

For his latest attempt, Guy was to take on the challenge of setting a new tractor speed record not once but twice, at the wheel of a JCB Fastrac (usual top speed, 41 mph).

He initially achieved a new record of 166.79 km/h (103.64 mph) before going even faster by reaching 217.570 km/h (135.191 mph).

Guy had previously worked with JCB when he built a replica World War I tank.

"There are some good folk there and they said about this idea of building the world's fastest tractor. So I said 'if you want it piloting give us a shout' and that’s where it came about," he told Guinness World Records.

The location was Elvington airfield, a former RAF station in North Yorkshire (UK) with a three-km runway - the perfect place for the lorry mechanic turned TV presenter and racer to beat the 140.45 km/h (87.27 mph) achieved by Top Gear in 2018.

Fastest tractor JCB

The first attempt took place in June 2019, with Guy and the team aiming to reach the magical 100 mph.

"I turned up this morning and had a look round," he explained. "I went around [an area to the side of the runway] to get my eye in and get a feel for how it drives and what the clutch is like. 

"It can’t turn tight as it hasn’t got a differential in the back axle. So just get used to how the gears change, how the engine behaves because it’s fairly sluggish low down until the turbo comes in."

Guy Martin tractor

After a series of shakedown runs Guy took his yellow speed machine to the end of the runway for a crack at the record.

The acceleration was so great the following support cars struggled to keep up each time he put his foot down and disappeared over the horizon from the end of the asphalt within a matter of seconds before returning moments later.

After three return runs Guy had secured the record with 166.79 km/h (103.64 mph).

Guy Martin fastest tractor record

For a speed record an average must be taken from two runs in opposite directions to account for variable conditions such as wind or an incline.

Afterwards Guy said: "I think we did over 110 mph in one place. It doesn’t feel that fast. It’s a big open place you don’t have anything to reference your speed. You could be doing 250 mph here and it doesn’t feel that fast.

"I’ve known for ages [we could do it]. There are some clever people involved and I knew when they said it would break the record it was going to happen. I had no doubt today it was going to happen."

Fastest tractor Guy Martin Elvington runway

While Guy’s record-breaking vehicle still looks like a tractor, it is by no way original.

The standard engine has been replaced with a modified JCB engine producing power over 1,000 hp while a new six-speed transmission and a smaller, more aerodynamic cab has been installed.

Other modifications include a new aluminium bonnet, additional bodywork such as front bumper, side panniers, rear diffuser, underbody pan and a lighter chassis.

Guy Martin fastest tractor parachute

All these changes have transformed the driving experience, and if anyone knows it’s Guy who has his own regular tractor at home.

“It doesn’t feel like a tractor [to drive]. From the outside it looks like a tractor but it doesn’t to sit in and it doesn’t go anything like a tractor. 

“You have a five-point harness, there’s no radio, there’s no cup holder, no fridge. Most tractors have fridge and air con. It doesn’t have autosteer on it.”

Fastest tractor Elvington

Not content with driving a tractor to an average speed of more than 100 mph, Guy and his team’s thoughts immediately turned to how they could get even more speed out of the JCB-built machine.

Four months later on 23 October and the team returned to Elvington aiming to beat their June record.

The British autumn weather held to allow Guy to reach an average speed of 217.570 km/h (135.191 mph) and further extend the record, with a top speed of 153.7 mph.

Guy Martin

Will we see Guy add to his collection of four Guinness World Records titles? Probably.

“I just like going fast. If it’s something a bit risky I’m all for it.”