The Need For Speed
Top Gear South Africa|October 2019
Breaking the 480kph barrier has become an obsession for the hypercar manufacturers. Here’s the story of how Bugatti got there first
Charlie Turner
For most, 420kph – the top speed of a ‘regular’ Chiron – would be sufficient. In the hypercar world, however, being the fastest takes on a whole new importance. It’s a fundamental selling point, and, while some of the metrics driving purchases are subjective, being the fastest is binary. In recent years, the battle to claim the title between SSC (412.28kph two-way average, 2007) Hennessey (435.31kph two-way average, 2013) and Koenigsegg (457.94kph vmax, 447.19kph two-way average, 2017) has brought the record within touching distance of the mythical 300mph (480kph). It’s also taken away Bugatti’s dominance since 2010, something the team from Molsheim is keen to redress.

“Being the fastest is not the right expression,” says Stefan Ellrott, head of development for Bugatti. “Moving boundaries would be better. Bugatti is known for moving boundaries. Right now, the 480kph barrier for a hypersports car is the boundary we would like to achieve. At this kind of speed, normally aeroplanes are flying, and you have to make sure the car is stable, that it will stay on the ground and not be nervous. And the driver has to feel confident to drive at that kind of speed without any risk.”

And so, over the past six months, a team of engineers from Bugatti, Michelin and chassis wizards Dallara has set about creating a car that can break the 300mph (480kph) barrier. And what a car.

This is no ordinary Chiron. First, there’s the way it looks. At 25cm longer, the Chiron Super Sport 300+ Prototype has an elegant but menacing presence. Its purposeful intent is amplified by laser-controlled ride height, set significantly lower to reduce drag, giving the impression that the car is melting into the tarmac.

At the rear, the long tail with its reduced cross section (to aid aero and minimise drag) is punctuated by a pair of over-and-under shotgun tail-pipes (first seen on the Centodieci limited special). Objectively, these project the exhaust emissions as far from the rear as possible to reduce their effect on drag and aero. Subjectively, they add even more drama and a whole new menace and sense of purpose to the Chiron aesthetic.

To reduce drag, the rear wing and airbrake have been removed and replaced with a static unit recessed into the tail. Somehow the design team has managed to incorporate the demands for low drag and high-speed stability, while improving aesthetics to the extent that when you look at the regular car, it looks stumpy in comparison.

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