"A milestone for eternity" that is what Bugatti have done, words from the big man himself Mr Stephan Winkelmann. Bugatti have once again one the top speed race taking a modified prototype of what will inevitably become the "Bugatti Chiron super fast crazy edition".
The news was broken exclusively by Topgear a slightly more established version of what we are doing, that Bugatti had hit a total V-max of 304.77mph, a full 26mph more than Koenigsegg's existing record with the Agera RS. That is a behmoth of a landmark and a target for Bugatti to lay down. At that speed you are covering 136 metres every second. Every second! This means that by the time Usain Bolt has done 100m, you sat in your Chiron will have done about 1300m (1.3km) dependent on what he had for breakfast. The test driver, unfortunately not me, Andy Wallace piloted during the record run at Volkswagens Ehra-Lessien test track famous for its 9km straight where the Chiron's older brother the Veyron had set its famous top speed runs.
Whats so special about this Chiron?
Ok so we know the standard Chiron (yes I say "standard" loosely) was limited to 261mph. Which when it came out, to be honest, was a bit of a let down. This was largely limited due to I think Bugatti playing its cards close to its chest. It had the base idea but it was missing a few key upgrades to set the top speed game on fire, they were never targeting the Koenigsegg, it was all about 300.
One of these challenges was the aero the Chiron doesn't have poor aero, but as the car begins to accelerate past 260 mph as well all know it becomes exponentially harder to keep accelerating. This is due to the air effectively becoming thicker meaning the car has to fight air resistance. This is achieved by having a low coefficient of drag, seem's simply enough. But not really, as you drive at higher speeds the air over the top of the car is trying to lift the car off the floor, and the air underneath the car is trying to suck the car down. For optimum performance at top speeds these need to be balanced, as to not create lift loosing grip to the floor, but to have a low rolling resistance caused by the tyres digging in to the road all the while not creating too much drag. To achieve this Bugatti turned to Dallara you might recognise the name from well, anywhere in motorsport really! The differences they made look to have created two gaping big aggressive intakes on the front. Some fancy aero side skirts. This will improve cooling to the car as well as providing down force as well as the side skirts looking to encourage ground effect to help keep the car from lifting off at intense speeds. There is also huge changes to the rear with those exhausts being the most obvious as well as the size of that diffuser! All helping to keep the car planted and slippery in the air. The Bugatti also has a fully carbon fibre body because well, obviously you don't want any weight lying around anywhere it doesn't have to.
Ok the Chiron wasn't exactly a slouch as it was with 1479bhp, but this would not do for 300mph. As I have said earlier the quicker you go the more the air and other forces will try to hold you back, so one way past this, is pure power. Bugatti tuned the W16 powerplant up to a massive 1600bhp. Ridiculous amount of power for ridiculous speeds. This power helps push the car straight through the gloopy inconvenience that is air and it begs the question, when are we going to truly get a 2000bhp road car?
One of the biggest issues and reasons Bugatti haven't (and other manufacturers) is because your option at the MOT centre for "I'll have whatever tyre is cheapest" doesn't really cut it on a world record run. Bugatti have been working with Michelin and have produced special Michelin Pilot Cup 2's. All of these tyres had to be X-ray scanned as inside the tyres are small strands of metal around the circumference. These strands increase the strength of the tyre, often these strands will slightly touch in areas, now normally this is fine, the issue comes at 300mph that if these are touching, they will move and generate friction with each other, this of course comes with heat. Now these tyres are already hot enough from friction from the ground, with internal rubbing there would be a higher internal temperature too. Imagine how scary a tyre blow out on the motorway would be, can you even imagine that at 300mph? Better safe than sorry, and these tyre manufacturers were taking no risks and neither were Bugatti. All these factors had to come together to hit 300mph.
I personally do not think we can really go much faster than this in a production car without the invention of flying cars. This kind of speed is sure to bring about the obvious challenges of beating physics in to submission to go literally any faster. What I do believe is that now Bugatti has shown it is possible, it will not be long before others follow, I mean look at the Koenigsegg Jesko that to me looks like a low drag top speed attempt from the Swedish firm which doesn't exactly put out slow cars. From the land of power, the USA SSC have constantly been toying with coming for 300mph, whether they have the true grit to get there soon is yet to be seen however. As these cars go forth and slowly set 300mph as a benchmark, I wonder if we will ever even see 350mph. My brain says no, but if you had asked me 3 years ago would we hit 300mph, I would probably have said maybe when I retire.
Bravo Bugatti you sure have some zany engineers.