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In one fell swoop, Bugatti reclaimed the top speed crown from Koenigsegg, and became the first hypercar manufacturer to break the 300-mph barrier. Andy Wallace, the French firm's official test pilot, recently set a speed record in a purpose-built, Chiron-based prototype on the Ehra-Lessien track in Germany.

With 16 cylinders screaming in unison a foot away from his eardrums, Wallace reached 304.773 mph on Ehra-Lessien's 5.4-mile straight. To add context, the Veyron Super Sport topped out at 267.856 mph, and the Koenigsegg Agera RS stopped accelerating at 284.550 mph. Japan's Shinkansen bullet train normally runs at about 200 mph. The record-setting Chiron is faster than many small, Cessna-like aircrafts, and it can outrun a majority of the helicopters in the skies.

Bugatti calls the record-setting car a pre-production version of a Chiron derivative. While technical details remain under wraps, we can tell its rear end has been extended in order to add downforce without creating drag. Round vents drilled into the top part of the front end reduce turbulence in the wheel wells, while peeking inside reveals a roll cage and a Sparco bucket seat for the driver. The prototype looks a little bit lower than a regular Chiron, too, but we'll have to wait until Bugatti publishes more information to find out what lies beneath the carbon fiber bodywork, and whether any of it will reach production.

Italy's Dallara helped develop the special Chiron. Michelin contributed a great deal of expertise to the project, too. It provided Pilot Cup Sport 2 tires reinforced to handle 5,300 Gs while remaining street-legal. The company went as far as sending the four tires through an X-ray machine to scan for even the smallest imperfections.

The run comes as a surprise, because the company's interest in setting speed records seemingly waned after it released the Chiron. Getting to 304 mph required a tremendous amount of effort, but Bugatti now has two additional bullet points on its resume. It's the first automaker to break the 300-mph barrier, and the Chiron stands out as the fastest car in the world. 

We expect to learn more about Bugatti's record-setting run — including what's next for the record-breaking car — in the coming weeks as the firm continues celebrating its 110th birthday. In addition to the speed record, the celebrations have so far spawned the one-off La Voiture Noire and the limited-edition Centodieci.

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