Record-Setting Chiron Caught Air at Nearly 450 km/h
Bugatti made the record run on a 21-km long, three-lane high-speed track at Ehra-Lessien in Lower Saxony.
The Bugatti Chiron’s ride to 490 km/h looked terrifying enough in videos, but it was even more frightening for the man behind the wheel. Not exactly helped by the test driver’s report that the car caught air at 447 km/h while (fortunately) on the main straight of the test track.
Bugatti made the record run on a 21-km long, three-lane high-speed track at Ehra-Lessien in Lower Saxony. The reason Bugatti said they used that track, and not a miles-long stretch of closed road like Koenigsegg in Nevada, was for safety. “Safety is our top priority. We did everything we could in advance to minimize the risk to our test driver,” said Bugatti development boss Stefan Ellrott.
Those measures included the guardrails at the track, rescue crews stationed at both ends, and special mats used to remove any possible debris on the surface.
But that didn’t mean everything was perfect, test driver Andy Wallace told Whichcar Australia.
“There is a surface change [on the straight], and I was calling it a ramp and jump, and everyone was wondering why I was calling it that,” he said. “That was until they looked at the data, and they realised that it actually is a jump. This occurs at 447km/h on that fast run. It goes from a nice smooth surface, to an older surface. It felt to me inside the cabin that it was all coming off the ground and then coming down.”
That’s right, the car was actually putting all four wheels in the air. What seemed like a gentle change between a new and old surface at normal speeds was a launch ramp at more than 440 km/h.
So what did Wallace do? He kept his foot on the floor. “You know that surface change is there, and after you have fired yourself off the banking, and the numbers are coming up, you kind of brace yourself for going over this jump,” he explained. “You can’t lift though. In fact, lifting makes this much worse, because then you get a pitch change at the front and it gives you a whole heap of trouble. You are far better off staying flat, which means there is not much you can do about it, you just go with it and hope it is alright.”
Watch Bugatti’s video of the event closely and you can see the surface change as he hits 447 km/h. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s likely no coincidence that Bugatti edits the video there to show the tires a moment after the surface change and not before.
It’s just a glimpse at how quickly things can go wrong when you’re pushing the edge of engineering and speed.