Assuming, of course, other manufacturers find somewhere they think they can hit 305mph-plus.
A section of closed Nevada highway was the choice for Koenigsegg in 2017 and is likely to be the location of any future runs. We could have gone there too, says Bugatti, claiming that the extra altitude and occasional slope would have let the Chiron reach 319mph.
Instead it chose Ehra-Lessien, the Volkswagen group test track, because it’s safer. It swept the surface before every run, put medical teams at either end of the straight, and knows the surface so well that test driver Andy Wallace only ran the Chiron in one direction, the same way the track is usually operated. Running against the grain of the used asphalt might have overheated the tyres, and it is tyres more than anything else that dictate how safely you can run at these speeds. Michelin X-rayed the Chiron’s to make sure no radial bands were touching each other, which would generate heat.
That means that while the run was overseen by Germany’s TUV organisation, a true world record would require the car to average over two directions. But these technicalities are sometimes, officially, slightly cloudy – cars go without a speed limiter here, a rev limiter there. The short of it is that Bugatti makes a car that’ll do 300mph. That’s the important bit.
Bugatti says that, at this point, it will walk away from what is, ultimately, an increasingly pointless endeavour. While Bugatti might make Ehra-Lessien available to some Chiron customers to run up to the 261mph limiter, the 300 barrier is a speed that, as a customer, you will not achieve.
Not everybody will take that as a sign to call it a day, though. While we once thought that the McLaren F1’s speed of 240.1mph – incidentally also set by Wallace, and at Ehra-Lessien – would never be beaten, I’m not going to suggest the same thing this time.
Now that Michelin has made road car tyres that can handle these speeds, and there are companies out there with risk assessments more liberal than Bugatti’s, they’ll go to Nevada and take brave pills and post a higher speed across two directions and say it’s more official. Which in a way it will be. But it will be no more relevant, and still they won’t be remembered as the first to break 300mph.
Far from chuffed
As I write I’ve just returned from 10 days without a car. I must say, if you want to travel from not quite where you are, to not quite where you want to be, not quite when you want to, and you’d like to spend quite a while and a fair amount of money doing it, trains are ever so good.