Bugatti retired from chasing speed records after it became the first automaker to break the 300-mph barrier with a production car. Andy Wallace, the British pilot who was behind the wheel during the record-setting run, told Autoblog the Chiron's W16 engine wasn't out of breath at 304.77 mph.
"I don't think that's the v-max of the car, because it was still accelerating. At that speed, you cover a kilometer about every seven seconds. Then, of course, at the other end you need some distance — not necessarily time, but quite a lot of distance — to get the car down to the right speed for the banking," Wallace remembered.
He added that, in hindsight, he might have been able to keep his foot on the throttle for about one more second before hitting the brakes. That wouldn't have been enough to cross the symbolic 500-kilometers-per-hour (310-mph) threshold, but it would have added about another mile per hour to his record. "We need less drag or a longer road to go faster," he explained.
"The track is being resurfaced, and there's a joint in the road that's not quite as flat as it should be. The team was joking with me — people said, 'I can't feel it in a normal car.' Hit it at [277 mph], and it becomes a big jump."
Reaching speeds planes normally take off at, while keeping a car securely planted on its four wheels, is more difficult than sitting behind the wheel, buckling up, and flooring it. It requires a considerable amount of preparation. Wallace worked closely with Bugatti's engineering team, Michelin, and Dallara, among other partners, before attempting to set a speed record. Wind tunnel testing and computer simulations played a significant role in making the run possible and successful, but there are some factors the team didn't find out about until the car went around the Ehra-Lessien test track for the first time. Wind was one; another was what Wallace called a jump.
"The track is being resurfaced, and there's a joint in the road that's not quite as flat as it should be. The team was joking with me — people said, 'I can't feel it in a normal car.' Hit it at [277 mph], and it becomes a big jump. It's a ramp. The car goes completely up on its suspension, and you land with a wobble. Once you've done that and you're not in too much trouble, it gives you great encouragement to stay flat for the rest of it," he told Autoblog.
When asked how long it will take for someone to break his record, Wallace pointed out that nothing stands still these days. Michelin already revealed it tested the tires fitted to the Chiron Super Sport 300+ at up to 317 mph, so rubber isn't the limiting factor. Wallace is ready for more, too.
"You've got all the right people sitting around, and you ask where the limit is. You push it to Michelin, they say, 'It's not us.' If it comes back to me, I'm gonna say it's not me. With the right technology, and careful preparation, I'm sure you can go more. I'm also sure you can't do 600 kph [372 mph]; certainly not now," Wallace concluded.