Ever since the Bugatti Chiron waltzed onto the scene in all its 1,479-horsepower glory, the car's pesky speed limiter—a paltry 261 mph, 7 ticks lower than the record-setting Veyron it replaced—left us wondering if and when Bugatti intended to max it out. Friends, that time is now. The Bugatti Chiron has officially broken the mythic 300-mph mark, an achievement that should be followed by an uber-limited run of capable customer cars.
Last month, a modified Bugatti Chiron coyly described as a "pre-production prototype" hit a GPS-verified 304.773 mph in Germany with ace pilot Andy Wallace at the wheel to conditionally reclaim the title of the fastest production car in the world from the Koenigsegg Agera RS. Obviously Bugatti will have to sell a few to cement the record, and the press release's careful wording hints at those plans. Some internet sleuthing by Car & Driver revealed it might called the Chiron Super Sport 300.
"An incredible speed. It’s inconceivable that a car would be capable of this. But the Chiron was well prepared and I felt very safe – even in these high speed ranges," Wallace said. "Even at the first attempt I felt this would work. The Chiron ran perfectly and the track and weather conditions were ideal. The whole team did a fantastic job."
Outside of military runways, there are but a few places in the world with a long-enough straight to get a production car up to 300 mph. Fortunately, Volkswagen Group owns one of them: its test track in Ehra-Lessien, Germany. But this wasn't a matter of pulling the speed limiter fuse on a normal Chiron and flooring it. To get to 300 mph, Bugatti pulled together a crack team to create a new variation on the hypercar—more power from that W16 engine (1,578 hp), reinforced Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, a strengthened safety cell, reworked aerodynamic elements, and a longtail body lengthened by 10 inches.
Engineers from Dallara pitched in on chassis and aero stability. But it's always been the tires that have held Bugatti back; even though Michelin tested its shoes up to 300 mph in preparation for Koenigsegg's top speed run two years ago, Bugatti's longtime supplier went through an obsessive quest to produce the perfect rubber here. That included X-raying potential tires to search for the smallest deficiencies that might rear their heads at speed and pushing candidates to 317 mph in bench tests. Every system on the car was shaken down as much as humanly possible in the laboratory before Bugatti gunned it on August 2.
The result: some truly mind-melting numbers from the record run. At 300 mph, the Bugatti Chiron is covering a mile every 12 seconds. That's 446 feet a second. The tires are rotating at 4,100 times per minute. What we don't know yet is how long the Chiron can keep up that pace; for comparison, the Veyron would drain its entire 26-gallon fuel tank in 12 minutes running at full clip, and its tires weren't rated for more than 15 minutes above 250 mph.
So Bugatti's done it. The quest for 300 mph is officially over—and with it, the focus on top speed that's defined the automaker for a decade-plus. Though this will undoubtedly prompt Koenigsegg or Hennessey or someone else to push for 305 mph, Bugatti says that this run will be its final statement on the matter. It's officially done with the speed record game.
"Our goal was to be the first manufacturer ever to reach the magic 300-mile-per-hour mark. We have now achieved this – making ourselves, the entire team and myself, incredibly proud." Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann said. "We have shown several times that we build the fastest cars in the world. In future we will focus on other areas."