Currently reading: Record 304mph Bugatti Chiron makes public debut
“Near production-spec” machine used by Andy Wallace to set hypercar speed record shown at LA motor show
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4 mins read
20 November 2019

The Bugatti Chiron that set a new production car speed record of 304.773mph has been displayed to the public for the first time at the Los Angeles motor show.

The road-going Chiron has a limited top speed of 261mph, but the company removed that restriction when British sportscar veteran, Le Mans winner and official Bugatti tester Andy Wallace drove to an astounding 304.773mph at the VW Group’s secretive Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany.

The Chiron’s “near production” spec included an additional safety cell, aerodynamic changes and a taller seventh gear, as well as a 1578bhp version of Bugatti’s quad-turbocharged 8-litre W16 engine, taken from up from the 1479bhp of the ‘standard’ car. It was displayed at LA alongside the company's previous fastest car, the Veyron Super Sport.

A production version of the record-setting car, the Chiron Super Sport 300+, was revealed at the climax of Bugatti's Grand Tour rally in Italy early this year. The €3.5m (£3.1m) model will be limited to just 30 examples, with the first customers expected to take delivery in mid-2021.

Exceeding 300mph relied on specially constructed Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres designed to handle the enormous forces of such speeds; at the record velocity, each was turning 4100 times a minute. Each tyre was X-rayed before it was selected for use to ensure that none of the radial bands were touching each other; while this doesn’t matter at even the Chiron’s normal governed speed, it could have created unwanted tyre hot-spots at higher velocities.

Wallace also admitted that the enormous gyroscopic effect of the wheels rotating so quickly became a challenge at ultra-high speeds. “At 200mph you can barely feel it, but at 300mph it’s absolutely enormous,” he told Autocar after the run, “it’s felt mostly on the front wheels and, therefore, the steering; like a spinning top, when it starts to move it wants to continue to move.” 

Dallara had designed the aerodynamic kit for the record-run – the Italian motorsport specialist builds the Chiron’s body – but there was no way to test simulation projections before the car was on track as speeds were too high to be simulated in a wind tunnel. The aim was for neutral downforce, but that still meant huge forces running through the car’s structure. “Net zero downforce front and rear sounds easy, as you’ve got the static weight of the car pushing down and that’s more than heavy enough.

"But it doesn’t mean the air is having no effect, there’s close to 2000kg on the top surface of the body trying to pick the car off the ground, and another 2000kg under the car trying to pull it back down – two fighting forces that come to four tonnes roughly… so you’ve got to be absolutely sure that everything on the car is secure enough to go this fast.” 

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At higher speeds Wallace also discovered that a recently resurfaced part of the 8.8km long straight at Ehra-Lessian was unsettling the car. “You’d barely notice in a normal car, but at those speeds it felt huge,” he said, the transition soon being known by the engineering team as ‘the jump.’

After four days at Ehra-Lessien the Chiron had managed a peak speed of 482.5km/h – 299.8mph, tantalizingly close to the 300mph barrier – but Wallace was struggling to go quicker. Then, on the record-setting lap, he felt confident enough over ‘the jump’ to push harder: “after it landed and had a bit of a weave about I thought it was the best it’s been, the cross wind was a little bit less and I just kept it pinned.”

Wallace saw a peak of 490km/h on the car’s GPS display, so knew he had set a record, but the live telemetry had been unable to keep up and had showed a maximum of 479km/h. For several minutes as the car returned to the pit area the crew were unaware that the Chiron had broken the 300mph barrier. “They couldn’t work out why I was so happy on the radio,” Wallace admits. The Chiron’s on-board data recorder then confirmed the record time.

But Bugatti intends to leave it there, president Stefan Winkelmann saying that the company’s quest for ultimate speed is satisfied. “We have shown several times that we built the fastest cars in the world. In future we will focus on other areas,” he said in the official release; “Bugatti was the first to exceed 300mph – it’s name will go down in the history books and it will stay that way forever.” 

For Wallace, this is the third time he has driven a car to the production car record, having previously done so with both the McLaren F1 and Jaguar XJ220. “It’s pretty bloody cool,” he told Autocar, “if somebody said to me even two years ago that I was going to go over 300mph I’d have thought they were out of their mind.”

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Lanehogger 2 September 2019

First 300mph road car?

Didn’t a modified, but still road legal, Ford GT reach 300mph earlier this year?

lambo58 2 September 2019

Impresive achievement.

Impresive achievement.

Utterly pointless except for the egomaniacs.

Meanwhile in the real world...

Cobnapint 2 September 2019

Each wheel was doing

68 revs per second.

Flipping heck.

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