Bugatti has become the first manufacturer to break the 300-mile-an-hour barrier. On a test track in Germany, a near production prototype derivative of the hyper sports car Chiron surpassed the magic limit with a speed of 304.773 mph (490.484 km/h). A new world record.
Le Mans winner and Bugatti test driver Andy Wallace reached the top speed of exactly 490.484 km/h (304.773 mph) on August 2, 2019 on the test track at Ehra-Lessien in Lower Saxony. “An incredible speed. It’s inconceivable that a car would be capable of this. But the Chiron was well prepared and I felt very safe – even in these high speed ranges,” says Andy Wallace. He worked his way up to the top speed from 300 km/h in 50 km/h increments to make sure all the conditions were right and the Chiron was optimally balanced in terms of lift and downforce. “Even at the first attempt I felt this would work. The Chiron ran perfectly and the track and weather conditions were ideal. The whole team did a fantastic job,” says Wallace, overjoyed at the accomplishment.
After one lap to condition the Chiron, Andy Wallace accelerated out of the north curve to 200 km/h to reach top speed on the 8.8 km straight. At a precisely defined braking point, he decelerated the Chiron back to 200 km/h to drive through the south bend. He had a distance of two kilometres in which to do so. “I went at full throttle from the start for approximately 70 seconds. It was important for me to be out of the bend at 200 km/h in order to reach top speed on the straight. That required the very highest level of concentration,” says the new record-holder. He covered 136 metres in one second.
It’s not the first time that Andy Wallace has set a speed record: in 1998, the Brit reached a speed of 391 km/h (243 mph) in at McLaren F1 on the same track, likewise setting a record.
For the world record, a team of engineers from various disciplines, under the direction of Bugatti’s Head of Development Stefan Ellrott prepared a pre-production vehicle of a Chiron derivative. In addition to aerodynamic improvements the specialists attached great importance to safety. Andy Wallace was held in place by six-point belts and protected by an additional safety cell.
The Bugatti team were supported by Italian race specialist Dallara as well as tyre manufacturer Michelin. “Their expertise was fed directly into the project. The record would not have been possible without our partners,” says Willmann. Michelin has been our tyre partner for many years and ensured the necessary grip and stability. The Michelin high-speed tyres already used on the Chiron were again reinforced, particularly the belts to handle the 5300 G, while still being street legal. After all, the tyres rotate up to 4,100 times in one minute. The tyres were subjected to extensive test bench trials at speeds of up to 511 km/h in the USA. Rigorous quality controls even after production: each tyre was X-rayed to optimise up to the smallest details. The world record car was only fitted with the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres directly before the record run.
On the test bench, the Bugatti engineers also tested the performance of the engine and the interaction between engine, gearbox and chassis during various manoeuvres. Even the smallest changes have a huge effect in this speed range. “After all the calculations and tests, we felt sure the record was within our grasp. We had the technology under control at an early stage. But a world record attempt on an open track can have a few surprises in store. We were lucky today and everything went well,” says Head of Development Stefan Ellrott with immense satisfaction.