Over the past weekend, German-owned French hypercar-maker Bugatti announced that one of their cars has managed to breach the mythical 300mph (482km/h) barrier, a remarkable feat by any measure. In fact, onboard telemetry pegs its peak at 490km/h.
Under their Volkswagen Group ownership, the Veyron, Bugatti’s first true attempt at creating a world-beating automobile, managed to achieve a top speed past that of previous straight-line heroes such as the McLaren F1 and reignited interest in a subject largely dormant since the race-to-200mph raged in the 1980s.
The car that made the breathtaking run is what seems to be a fairly lightly modified Chiron that’s been reinforced with a roll cage, had some unnecessary bits taken out or replaced with more lightweight alternatives, and a new, more aerodynamic ‘long tail’ rear end design that was co-developed with Dallara.
That the Chiron launched with an officially claimed top speed limited to 420km/h did raise some eyebrows, many wondering exactly how much further it could be pushed if certain limiting factors could be eliminated.
The 8.0-litre quad-turbo W16 engine, as we understand, is near-identical to a Chiron’s stock motor, albeit one that’s been given a new engine map that lifts peak power to 1,600hp, or 1193kW. Its dual-clutch transmission has also been altered with a taller 7th gear.
As the car would be attempting to reach speeds heretofore unprecedented by a road car, tyres were a major consideration as the wheels would be rotating 4,100 times a minute, generating tremendous heat and centrifugal force.
The set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres were reinforced with stronger metallic threads and microscopically scanned and X-rayed to verify that none of the individual threads were in contact nor where there any stray air pockets or manufacturing defects.
To venue for this record breaking run was to be none other than Volkswagen’s private Ehra-Lessien test facility in northern Germany, just 18km away from Wolfsburg, the same test track where its 8.7km straight also hosted the Veyron and the McLaren F1 for their respective top speed runs.
Fittingly, racer and works test driver Andy Wallace, who piloted both those cars in the past, again sat in the hot seat for the Chiron’s 300mph run. Much labour was expended by the ground team to balance the car’s aerodynamic drag with just enough downforce. In the car, Wallace cautiously increased speeds by 50km/h increments before making the final push.
There was tension on the ground as it took a while before the engineers realised the car had peaked at 490km/h. Wallace, meanwhile, who was keeping an eye on the on-board telemetry, was ecstatic. Later, it was indeed verified that the fabled 300mph broken was indeed broken, and presumably much champagne followed.
Bugatti did not perform a second run in the opposite direction to achieve an average top speed, therefore excluding them from a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Reason being, the tarmac surface grain has been conditioned for clockwise laps and doing so the other way would cause potentially catastrophic heat build up in the tyres. No thanks.