A track record of winning technology: exploring the Ricardo technologies behind speed records

15 Nov 2019


Ricardo’s winning technologies and high performance engineering expertise have enabled multiple land-speed records, contributed to some of the world’s greatest racing moments, and across automotive, industrial and motorsport sectors, we have provided technology to customers who seek the ultimate in performance, emissions reduction and fuel economy. Here, we find out what enabled the most recent records Ricardo has been involved with.

Bugatti Chiron becomes first hyper sports car to exceed 300 mph

In September 2019 Bugatti announced that a pre-production derivative of the Chiron achieved the accolade of being the first hyper sports car to exceed 300 mph – establishing a new TÜV-certified speed record of 304.773 mph (490.484 km/h)

Le Mans winner and Bugatti test driver Andy Wallace reached the top speed of exactly 304.773 mph (490.484 km/h) on the test track at Ehra-Lessien in Lower Saxony. For the world record, a team of engineers from various disciplines – under the direction of Bugatti’s Head of Development Stefan Ellrott – prepared a pre-production Chiron derivative vehicle. In addition to aerodynamic improvements the specialists attached great importance to safety. The car and tyres were the subject of extensive prior testing, and Andy Wallace was held in place by six-point belts and protected by an additional safety cell.

The production Bugatti Chiron boasts a Ricardo manufactured seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). This DCT is one of the world’s most advanced, transmitting over 1500 HP and 1600 Nm of torque. It accommodates this significant power and torque increase within an extremely compact packaging envelope, while retaining and improving upon driving characteristics.

To achieve this, Ricardo sought technical solutions derived from its extensive Formula 1 activities, which allow access to previously proven, highly advanced materials for construction and to innovative manufacturing processes. The Chiron’s DCT is thus weight neutral in comparison with that of its predecessor, the Veyron, while accommodating a significant increase in power and torque.

JCB Fastrac Tractor achieves British tractor speed record

In June 2019, JCB’s Fastrac Tractor stormed to a new British speed record for a tractor, powered by a variant of the Derbyshire manufactured 7.2 litre, 6-cylinder Dieselmax engine co-developed by JCB with Ricardo.

The aerodynamically enhanced JCB Fastrac high-speed tractor notched up 103.6mph at Elvington Airfield, near York, driven by Guy Martin– smashing the previous 87.27mph record set in March 2018 by Top Gear’s Track-Tor.

The special variant of the 7.2 litre, 6-cylinder DieselMax engine developed by Ricardo is capable of delivering up to 1,000hp and 2,500Nm of torque. JCB and Ricardo engineers were able to apply know-how gained from their involvement in the Dieselmax streamliner, along with new technologies such as electric supercharging, to achieve these high-performance levels. Ricardo also used its state-of-the-art VR CFD visualisation techniques to help JCB enhance the Fastrac aerodynamics.

JCB DieselMax streamliner car diesel land speed record

In August 2006, the JCB DieselMax took the FIA international diesel-powered land speed record when it reached 350.092mph on Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA, using two 750hp JCB444-LSR DieselMax engines developed by Ricardo.

Ricardo simulations pointed to a power requirement of 1500hp to reach the 350mph (563 km/h), and with an intimate knowledge of the engine’s every component, Ricardo’s specialists worked out that with a double engine arrangement, the target could be in reach.

It was a considerable engineering feat to boost each engine from 125 hp to six times that output: laid on their sides and fitted with dry sumps, each four-cylinder, five litre engine ran at 6 bar boost with intercooling and water injection. Soon they were giving 600hp. A number of bespoke components were required, including a solid billet crankshaft, competition fuel injectors ad pistons and modified cam profiles.

For the record run, the engines had been boosted to their full 750hp to achieve the record-breaking speed, which still stands today.

Adrian Greaney

Adrian Greaney

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