When I was a kid and my dad wanted to convey speed, he would always say, ‘That guy’s going a mile a minute.’ My dad was born in 1910, when that was a pretty impressive speed. When he was teaching me to drive, he would always yell it out and I would always say, ‘But dad, that’s only 60 miles an hour. The speed limit is 65.’
‘ANDY WALLACE SEEMS COMPLETELY NORMAL, BUT I SUSPECT PARTS OF HIM ARE MADE OF CARBONFIBRE’
In my formative years, the magic number was always 200. When I started reading car magazines in the early ’60s, members of the 200-miles-an-hour club were few and far between. And the men who had reached that speed were treated with an almost mythical deference.
It wasn’t until 1987 that a production car was able to reach that milestone. That car was, of course, the #Ferrari-F40
. It took 100 years for the motor industry to go from zero to 200mph, yet only 33 years to go from 200 to over 300mph, which was achieved by the Bugatti Chiron mere months ago.
I was amazed at how little fanfare that incredible feat generated. Sure, it was covered in the automotive press and on the internet, but that was about it. I was fortunate enough to speak to Andy Wallace, the man who achieved it, when they brought that recordbreaking Bugatti to my garage.
Andy is one of my heroes and is one of the most self-effacing guys you’ll ever meet. He’s the kind of guy you could sit in a pub with for hours, listening to his tales of record-breaking in cars from the #Jaguar-XJ220
to the #McLaren-F1
in which he made an incredible run of 240.1mph, a record that would still stand today if the fastest production car in the world were normally aspirated. All of this without a hint of bragging. No brags, just facts, as my dad used to say.
The first person to drive a car at 200mph was Sir Henry Segrave, in a Sunbeam at Daytona Beach in 1927. The Segrave Trophy still exists, and is awarded to the British national who demonstrates outstanding skill, courage and initiative on land, on water or in the air. Can we at least get Andy one of those?
Britain is home to not one but two of the fastest Andys. Andy Green is the Land Speed Record holder at 763mph, set in Thrust SSC on Black Rock Desert in Nevada. That was the first supersonic Land Speed Record to be set, but now the same Andy is back behind the wheel. This time he’s in Bloodhound, a car so powerful it has a Formula 1 engine just to pump the fuel. He got to 628mph in testing in November and aims to break 1000mph in 2020 or 2021 if luck, money and technology work out. Clearly there is something about British Andys.
One of the things I found most impressive about Andy Wallace’s Bugatti run was the tyres. I had assumed they were special one-offs Michelin had created to break the record, but this was not the case. To qualify for the record you must use the stock tyres that come with the vehicle.
In this case they are Michelin Pilot Cup 2s with an additional layer of carbonfibre. These are the factory tyres that will come with all 30 of the Bugatti-Chiron-‘301’ models, which have been sold at over $5m a pop.
Other things that differ from the stock Chiron are the exhaust system as well as advanced aerodynamics, such as a fixed wing. If you’re thinking right about now that it doesn’t sound like a stock car, all the features I’ve just mentioned will be present on the 30 ‘301’ models that they build.
One nugget I took away from my talk with Andy Wallace was that these new Michelin Cup 2s will be cheaper than the original Michelins that were on the Bugatti when it was launched. And for those of you wondering what the point is of 300mph, given that you can’t possibly do that on the street, it’s that by pushing vehicles harder and faster we increase their reliability and durability at highway speeds. When the Chiron travels at more than 300mph, these tyres have to withstand 5300g while rotating 68 times per second. That’s nearly 4100rpm. They are rated to 318mph, so that gave Andy a bit of a cushion…
The other part of the equation that appears to be totally stock is the driver. Andy Wallace, at first glance, appears to be a completely normal British lad, two arms, two legs and so on. But I suspect certain parts of him have been made of reinforced carbonfibre, giving him that unknown quality the rest of us seem to lack.
So, what now? Bugatti supremo Stephan Winkelmann has already said that’s it, they’ve broken the record and they’re now moving on to concentrate on other things. I always thought 300mph in a street car was unobtainable, yet Bugatti has proved it is possible. Will anybody now care if the next milestone is 310mph, or 350? And what about 400? Will we have to wait another 33 years, or will it happen by 2036 – when Octane 400 hits the shelves?