The Chiron is the first production car to break the 300-mph barrier. But Bugatti thinks it can go even faster.
Bugatti hit the headlines this week after the Chiron became the first production car to break the 300 mph barrier. Driven by Bugatti test driver Andy Wallace, a pre-production Chiron prototype achieved a verified speed of 304.773 mph on the Ehra-Lessien test track in Lower Saxony, Germany. And yet, Bugatti believes the Chiron still hasn't reached its full potential.
Bugatti had to overcome several challenges to achieve the record run. According to Bugatti, there are four crucial factors to consider for a record attempt: the vehicle, the track, the location, and the weather. "All four have to be right and perfectly prepared so that everything is coordinated. The only thing we can't influence is the weather," explained Stefan Ellrott, Head of Development at Bugatti.
At such high speeds, ensuring the driver's safety is a top priority, which is why the Ehra-Lessien test track was chosen as the location for the record attempt. The 13-mile long, three-lane high-speed track is lined with crash barriers, and rescue services are available at the north and south ends. Special mats are also used to clean the carriageway before each test.
However, the test track in Ehra-Lessien is 164 feet above sea level, which presented Bugatti with several challenges since there is less aerodynamic drag. Unlike higher-altitude locations used for high-speed runs in the past such as in Nevada, the higher air density of 1013.25 hPa is almost the same as at sea level.
If the record run was attempted in Nevada, Bugatti believes the Chiron could have hit even higher speeds. "Our calculations have shown that we would have been around 25 km/h faster in Nevada," said Stefan Ellrott, Head of Development at Bugatti. That's an extra 15 mph. So in theory, the Chiron could have hit around 320 mph. But Bugatti favored the Ehra-Lessien test track simply because there were less safety risks. "Safety comes first at Bugatti," Ellrott continued. "The route in Nevada is very long and only goes in one direction: security forces would have taken too long to get to the scene in an emergency. In addition, the track has a slight gradient of about three percent. It wouldn't have felt right to set a record there."
Sadly, we probably won't find out if the Chiron can go even faster because CEO Stephan Winkelmann has announced Bugatti will no longer be chasing top speed records. At least Koenigsegg and Hennessey now have a target to beat.