One man knows, and he lived to tell the incredible tale.
When taming a supercar at scary speeds, it something goes wrong, it goes spectacularly wrong. Just ask Richard Hammond. Even the most skilled driver isn’t immune to this, as was the case with Bugatti test driver Loris Bicocchi who once crashed a Veyron at 248 mph. Bicocchi tells the incredible tale about the accident that happened way back in either 2002 or 2003. Speaking to Italian motoring writer Davide Cironi, the entire interview is in Italian but you can watch it with subtitles.
At the time, Bicocchi was putting a pre-production version of the Bugatti Veyron through its paces at the Nardo high-speed test track owned by Porsche. “It was one of the first tests we did in Nardo,” he recalled. Bicocchi also helped the Veyron’s predecessor, the EB110.Back then, the hypercar was only a “support for the engine and gearbox.”
To test the performance, Bicocchi was asked to two laps of the Italian circuit flatout. Without warning, he heard a loud “boom” – the front tire had exploded towards the end of the run, taking the front fender with it. This also caused the hood to lift, collapse, and smash into the windshield. At the time, the pre-production prototype was pushing speeds close to 400 km/h (248 mph). “When the tire blew, I was a foot away from the guardrail, because the more you are near, the less any wheel input is needed due to the banking becoming higher,” he explained. “In a snap, I didn’t even realise it, I hit the guardrail.”
After colliding with the guardrail, the Veyron’s right-rear tire also exploded, which heavily damaged the rear suspension. The impact was so severe, it caused Bicocchi to hit the side window, but luckily his helmet protected him. Increased pressure inside the cabin, which Bicocchi describes as like opening an airplane door, caused physical trauma for the test driver who was temporarily blinded during the ordeal. To make matters worse, smoke entered the cabin from a hole in the back of the car which had been made to connect the engine to the computers inside, and the gearbox and engine oil also caught fire. The car also wouldn’t stop due to damage to the braking system from the crash.
With no brakes or visibility, Bicocchi steered the car into the guard rail to try and slow it down. His instinct probably saved his life, because this brought the Veyron to a full stop. Getting out of the wrecked Veyron wasn’t easy as the door got stuck, but after kicking it a few times Bicocchi was able to escape. Remarkably, the chassis withstood the impact and was in surprisingly good condition considering the crash happened at nearly 250 mph, which was a testament to the car’s strong structure. Incidentally, Bicocchi received a bill from the Nardo Technical Center as he damaged 1,800 meters of guardrail in the accident.
“Bugatti laughed about it and took care of the expenditure,” he said. Bicocchi still works for Bugatti, test driving the Chiron as part of its development.