• Bugatti Prepares The Antidote To All Other Track-Only Hypercars

This is Bugatti’s most insane creation to date and is merely two days away from being unveiled but we’ve seen it already

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Just as we’re coming to terms - yes, it does take a while - with the idea that Rimac owns Bugatti, news came of a mysterious, low-slung beast that’s making the ground shake around Circuit Paul Ricard in France. To our amazement, said beast featured a horseshoe at the tip of its fascia and then it all came together: Bugatti is really preparing something hot for us and we’ve got to see it a few days ahead of the official debut on October 28th.

UPDATE!! Bugatti has revealed the 1,800-Horsepower Bolide - be sure to check out our latest coverage here!

A Bugatti track car is, frankly, long overdue

Bugatti Prepares The Antidote To All Other Track-Only Hypercars Exterior
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The questions are coming in thick and fast while the answers are still very few.

Is Bugatti preparing to race at Le Mans once again, for the first time since 1994?

Or is the French brand simply taking a stab at building a track-only hypercar, if for no other reason than to humiliate its peers from Maranello, Sant’Agata Bolognese, Woking, and everything in between? Both are valid questions as are those regarding the car’s specs, availability, and price. Here is, pretty much, everything that we do know.

For starters, we reported in September that, thanks to the new bond between Bugatti and Rimac, the French automaker could indeed be working on an EV hypercar poised to drop in October. Then, merely days ago, a teaser dropped with what looked like some X-Wing-shaped four-piece taillights and a simple ’What if...?’ description. We thought that it’s the rumored EV hypercar as the pieces of the puzzle seemed to line up but the latest footage seems to show a gas-powered model - probably hiding a Bugatti-specific W-16 engine.

Since Bugatti was revived (for the second time) in the early noughties by Volkswagen, it seemed like the company had somewhat lost its way. Sure, both the Veyron and, more recently, the Chiron have become iconic cars in their own right simply because of the level of performance they both offered while never doing away with any sort of creature comfort. Both are machines able of exceeding 250 mph while wrapping the driver and passenger in a never-before-seen level of luxury - not in a supercar.

What if ...? ⁣ ⁣ #BUGATTI #BUGATTIWorldPremiere

Posted by Bugatti on Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Bugatti Veyron became the first production road car to reach 252 mph (407 km/h) and, then, its replacement, the Chiron, did it all over again, only this time it had to beat the likes of Hennessey, Koenigsegg, and SSC in the process. In its extreme Super Sport 300+ version, the Chiron became the first production car to surpass 300 mph by reaching 304.77 mph at Ehra-Lessien in Germany.

With 1,600 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of torque at its disposal courtesy of an 8.0-liter, quad-turbocharged W-16 engine, the world thought it'd take a long while until someone would try to break the speed record again.

But, earlier in October, 2020, SSC did just that. After a decade of flooding us with promises and sneak peeks of the Tuatara - the glorious replacement to the also-record-breaking Ultimate Aero TT - SSC finally put its money where its mouth was and simply shattered Bugatti’s record. With a one-way top speed of 331.15 mph (532.93 km/h), the Tuatara became the fastest road car in the world while also achieving the fastest speed ever by a car on a public road. Its two-way average was equally impressive at 316.11 mph (508.73 km/h) especially since Bugatti never managed a second 300 mph+ run with the Super Sport 300+.

Bugatti Prepares The Antidote To All Other Track-Only Hypercars Exterior
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So, it seemed like Bugatti was wounded. A company once focused as much on building ultra-luxurious limos as it was on crushing the world of Grand Prix racing, while also managing to find the time needed to score a couple of outright Le Mans wins along the way, had now lost all of its bragging rights. The Chiron was no longer the world’s fastest car and, frankly, the track-focused Divo, also a Chiron under the skin, wasn’t that much of a track car. At least, not enough for it to break the record on the Nordschleife, for instance, something that Mercedes-AMG has just done with the AMG GT Black Series, a car with half the oomph of the Divo.

In other words, Bugatti had to do something. Had to come up with something to stun us all once more. And, happily, that’s precisely what the French company has done and the route they’re walking on with this latest model seems to be that which has already been charted by the likes of Lamborghini, Ferrari, or Pagani. All of these (and many others) have built track-only hypercars with Lamborghini recently testing an open-top version of its Essenza SCV12. With over 820 horsepower coming from the familiar 6.5-liter V-12, the Essenza instantly became the most powerful V-12 engined Lamborghini ever and, with a price tag of $3.5 million and just 40 build slots available, it will surely be one of the rarest too.

Now, Bugatti loves everything that includes "most" before something else and also adores the suffix "est" at the end of words. By doing a track-only car, Bugatti allowed itself the chance to push the envelope without having to worry about such boring things like European safety regulations, noise regulations, or, indeed, pollution laws. And, if done right, this latest Bugatti could go out there and teach the established bunch of ultra-rare, ultra-fast, and ultra-expensive track day exotics a lesson or two on how to go fast while looking ludicrous.

Bugatti Prepares The Antidote To All Other Track-Only Hypercars Exterior
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By ludicrous we mean straight out of a Batman film if the prototype spotted near Le Castellet at the Paul Ricard road course in France is any indication of what will be formally unveiled on October, 28th.

With a wrap-around windscreen that blends into the side windows, a plunging nose, tall rear wing, and huge diffuser, this thing had everyone on social media wondering {if} Bugatti is actually plotting something more than just a limited run of non-street-legal hypercar.

What if, indeed, Bugatti intended to come back to Le Mans?

The last time a Bugatti had raced there was back in 1995 and it was mainly thanks to the efforts of one Michel Hommel, a French enthusiast who wanted to see the famous brand back on the grid of the 24-hour race only to find out that a quad-turbocharged hypercar that was only lightly modified to go racing (even the gearbox ended up being the stock unit!) simply didn’t cut it in one of the world’s most grueling road races. Having said that, Hommel’s blue wonder was taken out by a crash, not by mechanical maladies while two years later, in 1996, Gildo Palanca-Pastor’s attempt to bring a much more serious-looking EB110 GT onto the grid failed in the early stages as the car didn’t pre-qualify for the event.

And that was that. While Bugatti did give us a sort of a glimpse of how an all-out racing Chiron would look like through its collaboration with Gran Turismo that resulted in the Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo, Bugatti was adamant that its interests didn’t lie with any racing series. Sure, its cars did get tested on many a race courses and Bugatti even tried to lap the Nordschleife with a Chiron mule in 2017. It all came to nothing, apparently, meaning we were left day-dreaming at the 1,500 horsepower, 290 mph+ Vision Gran Turismo. Until now.

While the prospect of getting a mind-bogglingly quick Bugatti EV that would benefit from all of the tech developed by Rimac, it’s somehow even more exciting that this track car is a bit more old-fashioned and by that we mean that it’s powered by an internal combustion engine. Along with the teaser image we’ve mentioned earlier in this story, Bugatti wrote that "the connection to aeronautics and to particularly light and uncompromising racing cars has existed at Bugatti for over 110 years … and the story is by no means over yet." Does that mean that Bugatti thinks about actually racing this thing and just having it run around slowly at track days? Well, let’s analyze this possibility.

First things first, the car itself. From the few images we’ve seen, the car looks like nothing that you’d be able to homologate in any known (to us) racing series. Unless some ’Formula Libre’ races are still being organized in 2020. The car’s light years away from the bulky - in comparison - Vision Gran Turismo with a plunging F1-style nose that ends with the angled horseshoe inlet. There are no headlights as the top of the nose is raised and acts as an added wing for more downforce while the intricate aero appendages sprouting from the sides of the fascia help direct the air through the two big side cavities of the car’s front end.

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The air goes in and then it is extracted both through the holes in between the fenders and the holes aft of the front wheels. The side profile is chiseled in an extra bid to channel the air along the rocker panels and then thru the vents in front of the rear wheel wells. There are also intercoolers mounted atop the rear fenders, as evidenced by the big openings just next to the B-pillar on either side of the car. The cockpit itself is super-low with the windshield sitting at an extreme angle, it too plunging down to the point that the driver can probably barely see over the fenders while going through a hairpin turn.

A roof scoop takes up a lot of real estate on the roof and continues backward towards the rear wing via a Le Mans style fin. The fin is connected to the top of the multi-element rear wing which, moreover, goes down as its endplates connect with the top half of the rear fenders. This arrangement sees the back tires exposed when seen from the back as only the wide diffuser with its five vertical elements tries to conceal them. The X-shaped lights we’ve seen in that teaser image are visible here with the two lower light bars attached to the top of the splitter while the other two hang from the trailing edge of the rear deck - one which, in itself, caves in as you look at the car from behind giving the rear a very Lotus Evija look.

Bugatti Prepares The Antidote To All Other Track-Only Hypercars Exterior
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We don’t know anything about this car’s specs but, for the record, a bone-stock Chiron’s quad-turbo W-16 develops 1,479 horsepower while the engine in the Super Sport 300+ is good for 1,578 horsepower - as much as in the radical-looking, EB110-inspired Centodeci. The final figure we’ve got to give is 0.67. That’s the only figure Bugatti has offered us and we don’t know what it means yet. It’s surely not the amount of G’s this thing can pull through the corners because that would be as much as 3 in the fast bits like the right-hander at the end of Mistral at Paul Ricard.

While this ’0.67’ may not appeal to you, how about Misha Charoudin’s claim that the car would be, theoretically, able to lay down a sub-6-minute ’Ring time and, even, sub-5:30-minute time? That’s insane, it has to be, right? The quickest time ever achieved at the Nurburgring-Nordschleife is a 5:19.55 done by Porsche’s astonishing 919 Evo driven by Timo Bernhard in 2018. That car was, essentially, an unlimited LMP1 machine, based on Porsche’s 2017 Le Mans winner but modified in order to achieve F1 qualifying speeds while still having fenders over the wheels and a roof over the driver’s head.

Porsche hoped that it would actually dip below five minutes but it "only" did 5:19 meaning, as Misha points out, that such outlandish calculations that are done before the car hits the track should be taken with more than just a pinch of salt. Still, it’s a cool prospect and we can’t wait to see what Bugatti’s new model can do!

Michael Fira
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 full bio
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