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We propose an estimator of the combustion torque on a diesel engine using as only sensor the easily available instantaneous crankshaft angle speed. The observer consists in a Kalman filter designed on a physics-based time-varying model for the engine dynamics. Convergence is proven, using results from the literature by establishing the uniform controllability and observability properties of this periodic system. A test bench and development environment is presented. Performance is studied through simulations and real test bench experiments.