Whether it be the world’s fastest car or the world’s strongest beer, the old maxim that “competition improves the breed” seems to hold true. Volkswagen spent an extraordinary amount of money, time and effort creating the 408 km/h (254 mph), 1001bhp Bugatti Veyron in 2005 – it knocked off the 387.37 km/h (240.7 mph) record set by Koenigsegg’s CCR to become the fastest, most powerful and most expensive car ever built. Then SSC came along with the Ultimate Aero TT to set a new world mark of 412.28 km/h (256.18 mph). Now Bugatti’s new Veyron Super Sport has pushed the record to 431 km/h.
SSC held the title for three years, but although it is known to have a car under construction which is targeting 280 mph, it is a far more multi-dimensional company than one which just builds fast cars. One of its other interesting projects is worth a look.
One of the major problems with building extreme cars is that such companies also have an obligation to create vehicles which can safely travel at such extreme speeds, and it isn't cheap engineering a road car into the unknown realm beyond 400 km/h. SSC and Bugatti are the only manufacturers with cars available that will travel at more than 400 km/h and Bugatti's latest record has now pushed that to a whopping 431.072 km/h - putting that in perspective, it's a statement of capability of Bugatti-proportions.
Adding nearly 20 km/h to a world speed record, after 120 years of human endeavour in the field, is a gargantuan achievement. It's a quantum leap forward - the equivalent of shaving a second from the world record for the 100 metre dash. It's hard to believe it's even possible to do that and still be able to viably sell such vehicles by making a profit.
Four hundred and thirty one km/h is a fearsome speed.
That's as fast as Shanghai's Maglev train, and if you've ever had the pleasure of watching mother earth flash past at that speed from the Maglev, you will appreciate exactly what I'm referring to. Scenery becomes blurred. The whole carriages twitch very quickly and suddenly you're aware of hypersonic wind roar outside which even the magnificently engineered levitating projectile cannot disguise. It's 100 km/h faster than the current state-of-the-art 250 bhp 2010 MotoGP bikes. of Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Stoner, Rossi et al.Indeed, it's a speed you do not see even see on a racetrack because they are nowhere near long enough to get to top speed.
When they used Jenson Button's V10-powered Honda F1 car as a base for a land speed record in 2006, the best it could achieve on the salt flats at Bonneville was 400 km/h.
In two way average speeds over different distances it clocked 397.360 km/h (246.908mph) and 397.481 km/h (246.983mph). On one run down a measured mile, it bested the magic 400 km/h with a pass of 400.454 km/h. The original Veyron could outrun a Formula One car.
Aerodynamics play an important role at such speeds. For a record attempt that focusses on speed alone, it's basically how many horsepower can you muster to push the air out of the way, and then what you can do to reduce frontal area and co-efficient of drag, or aerodynamic friction.
Going fast is just half the battle for a luxury car manufacturer. Bugatti must also ensure a perfectly civilized automobile for all other speeds - quite some benchmarks to set when your car will hit 430 km/h
Then there's the safety aspect. It's also a frightful speed if things go wrong, and Bugatti has met the full measure of its responsibilities in producing a car engineered to be safe at that speed. This isn't a stripped out one-trick beast that can outrun a Formula One car on an autobahn, it's also a refined, roadgoing, well mannered automobile.
Five replica record-breakers will be built and sold, complete with identical everything, including paint. The five identical cars of unmatched exclusivity and provenance have already been sold to five very wealthy, undisclosed gentlepersons.
The vehicles are limited to a top speed of 415 km/h due to the limits of the tyres, not the car, but will be otherwise in identical tune and trim to the Super Sport driven by Bugatti’s Pilote Officiel, Pierre Henri Raphanel to the world record.
With our fullest respect, SSC will need to have some luck to best this speed any time soon. Based on extensive testing, the Bugatti team was aiming for a two-way average of 425 km/h when the attempt was staged. It was delighted to hit 427.9 km/h on the first run. On the return run, the car went even faster, clocking 434 km/h and returning an average speed 6 km/h faster than the target and nearly 20 km/h faster than the previous record, thanks to almost perfect conditions. Some speed record attempts in history have required entire teams camping on location for months for a record attempt. This was done and dusted in a day.