Witness the Chiron’s split personality as it leaves behind that Trailer Queen persona

Bugatti, the maker of the fastest road-legal car, has just about had it with people yammering on about how its multi-million-dollar products are merely trailer queens good only for the occasional highway blast that otherwise only sit pretty in front of a Michelin-starred restaurant or high-end hotel. To prove the Chiron is also at home on a track, Bugatti rented the entire 2.6-mile-long Bilster Berg track and this is what went down.

Bugatti + closed-off track = happiness

Behold the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport Giving the Bilster Berg The Business Exterior
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Most of you may not find it pretty familiar to see a Bugatti hammering down a race track but racing has always been a part of Bugatti's DNA, ever since Ettore Bugatti established the company many decades ago.

The Italian-born French automotive legend demanded the best from his people and only looked for perfection when it came to the vehicles that proudly displayed the Bugatti badge. These automobiles had to have it all. They had to be fast, they had to be agile, they had to be reliable, and they had to be beautiful, and quite luxurious to boot.

The two directions would coexist at Bugatti in those early days as the company strived to build some of the world’s finest automobiles such as Jean Bugatti’s Type 41 Royale and the Type 57 SC Atlantic. The two were vastly different vehicles, the former a 21-foot limousine literally designed for the kings and queens of the world, and the latter a gorgeous, curvaceous two-sitter sports car with a riveted body.

Behold the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport Giving the Bilster Berg The Business Exterior
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By the time the Type 57 SC Atlantic was introduced in 1935, Bugatti had been racing for over a decade. Its first hit was the Type 35, unarguably one of the most successful Grand Prix cars of the pre-WW2 era. Bugatti built a number of T35 variants, including some that featured fenders and working lights which could compete in sports car races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

In all, the T35 won over 1,000 races in its time and some say that, during its peak years in '24-'26, a T35 would win about a dozen races every weekend.

The T35 was introduced at the Grand Prix of Lyon on August 3, 1924, and was powered by an evolution of the three-valve, 2.0-liter straight-eight engine first seen on Type 29. While developing only 90 horsepower at first, the engine was improved and it cranked out 125 horsepower in the T35C while the T35B came with a bigger 2.26-liter version of the same powerplant and smoked the competition thanks to its 150 horsepower output. A Bugatti T35B won the first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929 and, between 1925 and 1929, the Targa Florio was a Bugatti affair.

Behold the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport Giving the Bilster Berg The Business Exterior
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Come the ’30s, Bugatti introduced the Type 51 but the glory of the T35 series of models could not be recaptured as Alfa’s P2 (Tipo B) Monoposto and, later, Mercedes’ W25 single-seaters emerged onto the Grand Prix scene and swept the floor. Bugatti just about gave up on Grand Prix racing after 1934 when it realized that the Type 59 was simply obsolete straight out of the box despite it sporting a 3.3-liter 250 horsepower engine and Elektron composite body panels. Even all-time great Achille Varzi of Italy couldn’t do much behind the wheel of the Bugatti and eventually would bail to the rival Auto Union team leaving Louis Chiron as the last Bugatti driver to face the German/Italian steamroller.

Refocusing on endurance racing, Bugatti’s T57-based tank-bodied sports cars were particularly successful in the late ’30s winning the final runnings of the 24-hour race at Le Mans before the breakout of WW2. Jean-Pierre Wimille first paired with Robert Benoist to win the famous long-distance race in 1937 and then, in 1939, Wimille was back and won again, this time co-driving with Pierre Veyron.

You first notice that Bugatti cares about its racing heritage when you look at the names of the cars that were built after the VW Group takeover of the late ’90s.

The first production Bugatti to come out in the 21st century was christened ’Veyron’ in memory of Pierre Veyron while the 1999 concept car announcing the impending return of Bugatti onto the market was named ’Chiron’. Later on, Bugatti’s second modern hypercar was named that same way. However, unlike Romano Artioli’s "Italian Bugatti", the EB110, neither the Veyron and nor the Chiron actually race or have ever raced in sanctioned motorsport events. The quad-turbo EB110 was first raced by collector and amateur racer Michel Hommel at Le Mans in 1994 before tackling the 24 Hours of Daytona in the hands of Gildo Palanca Pastor’s Monaco Racing outfit in ’95-’96 when it also raced in the BPR Global GT Series.

Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport Track Teaser

Behold the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport Giving the Bilster Berg The Business Exterior
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But Bugatti seems to want to convince us that, if it wanted, it could turn the Chiron into a worthy race car. The fact is that, since the second resurgence of the brand, many have criticized Bugatti’s approach and desire to build the world’s fastest cars with some even going as far as saying a Bugatti is only good at going fast in a straight line, its high curb weight (for an automobile of its kind) making it horrendous on the track. Well, as you can see from the videos in this article, the Chiron is anything but horrendous on track.

To that end, Bugatti developed the Chiron Pur Sport, a quicker, track-oriented version of the Chiron that doesn’t go as fast as the ludicrous Super Sport 300+ but that can leave you drooling after a track day.

The engine inside the Pur Sport is the same as in any other Chiron - with some tweaks.

So, we’ve got the superb W-16, quad-turbocharged mill making 1,487 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of torque, an engine that can rev all the way to 6,900 rpm in the Pur Sport. The gears in the seven-speed transmission have been fiddled with to keep you closer to the peak of the power curve more often than not and, while you can’t see that with the naked eye, you’ll surely notice the Pur Sport’s bigger arch-shaped grille and wider side inlets.

Behold the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport Giving the Bilster Berg The Business Exterior
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Bugatti Chiron specifications
Engine: quad-turbo, 8.0-liter W-16
Horsepower: 1,479 horsepower
Torque: 1,180 pound-feet
0-60 mph: 2.6 seconds
Top speed: 261 mph
Price: $3 million
Production: up to 500

"With the Chiron Pur Sport, we’re pursuing a more extreme and radical development approach. It’s the perfect car for all those drivers who enjoy cornering at the limits and want to feel a connection with the road,” said Stefan Ellrott, Head of Development at Bugatti.

"Thanks to the new suspension geometry, the softer Michelin tires with even better grip and the enormous rear wing, the acceleration of the Pur Sport out of corners is even more brutal. It’s simply a pure, uncompromising driving machine," added Jachin Schwalbe who led Chassis Development on this car.

You don’t have to believe Schwalbe right away but just look how the Chiron hugs the apexes of Bilster Berg’s 19 turns (nine right turns and 10 left turns) and goes over the 44 crests and dips of the German track. With a downhill grade of up to 26% and uphill grades of up to 21%, Bilster Berg features a 230-foot elevation change from its lowest to its highest point. Sure, it ain’t the Nordschleife (which a Veyron has lapped in 7:40), but it’s ultra-exciting to drive and to watch a car being driven hard around there is almost as awesome.

Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read More
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