Bugatti Chiron Could've Hit 319 MPH Had It Replicated Koenigsegg's Nevada Test
Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann released a letter explaining why its most recent test sacrificed top speed for safer conditions.
In case you haven't heard, Bugatti recently broke the 300-miles-per-hour barrier with a tweaked Chiron, hitting precisely 304.773 mph at Germany's Ehra-Lessien test track. Bugatti then promptly announced its retirement from top speed records for good, opting to "focus on different projects" instead. Despite walking away from any future record attempts, however, the company seemingly isn't done making the lives of its competition difficult.
In a thinly-veiled power move that effectively marks any future records broken by its competition with an asterisk, Bugatti CEO Stephan Winkelmann said "We're not just the first manufacturer to produce a car that goes faster than 300 mph. We also did this on a test track that has a major drawback when it comes to speed tests."
Essentially, Ehra-Lessien is only 50 meters above sea level, much lower than, say, Route 160 in Nevada where Koenigsegg happened to take its Agera RS to an average top speed of 284 mph. The higher you are, the thinner the air is. The thinner the air is, the less aerodynamic drag you have to deal with. In short, Bugatti Head of Development Stefan Ellrott said, "Our calculations have shown that we would have been around 15 mph faster in Nevada."
Despite this, the company says it opted to stage the record run at Ehra rather than Nevada because the former is much safer. (We suspect the fact that Ehra is owned by Bugatti parent company Volkswagen had a bit to do with the decision as well.) "Safety comes first at Bugatti," said Ellrott. "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."
Given the 12-mile test track's ownership status, it's unlikely that Koenigsegg, SSC, or Hennessey will be granted access to the high-speed circuit any time soon.