Bugatti says that their record-breaking run earlier this week could have been a lot faster if they were in a more favorable location.
Last August, Bugatti secretly made history. A prototype “longtail” version of the Chiron hypercar was modified to produce 1,578 hp and then driven to Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in Lower-Saxony. There, driver Andy Wallace took the car to 304.77 mph, becoming the first production car in history to break the 300 mph barrier.
Shortly thereafter, Bugatti President Stephan Winkelman announced that Bugatti was done chasing top speed records and will instead focus “on different projects.”
Still looking to toot their own horn, Bugatti has released another statement saying that their record-breaking run could have actually been more impressive if they weren’t required to perform the attempt at VW’s Ehra-Lessien test track.
“With this record, Bugatti has once again shown what we are capable of – despite the enormous hurdles,” said Winkelman in a statement. “After all, we’re not just the first manufacturer to produce a car that goes faster than 300 miles per hour – at 304.773 mph (490.484 km/h). We also did this on a test track that has a major drawback when it comes to speed tests.”
That drawback: air density. Ehra-Lessien is about 50 meters (164 feet) above sea level, meaning the air is about as dense as it can be. Normally, denser air is better as it means there is more oxygen heading into the engine’s cylinders to produce more combustion and thus more power, but that equation changes once air resistance becomes more of a factor. Say, around the 300-mph mark.
Top-speed attempts normally take place somewhere with slightly higher elevation, such as Nevada where Koenigsegg performed their record-breaking run in 2017.
“Our calculations have shown that we would have been around 25 km/h faster in Nevada,” says Stefan Ellrott, but didn’t out of concern for the test driver. “Safety comes first at Bugatti. 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.”
Instead, Bugatti performed their test at VW’s test track where first-responders and rescue crew could quickly arrive at the scene of a wreck.
Koenigsegg is a little crazier, though, so expect to see them in Nevada with the Jesko sometime soon.