French high-performance luxury automobile manufacturer, Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S became the first car maker to break the 300mph barrier when a modified version of its Chiron, piloted by Bugatti test driver and Le Mans winner, Andy Wallace hit a TÜV-certified speed record of exactly 304.77 mph (490.484 kmph) on August 2, 2019, at Ehra-Lessien test track in Lower Saxony.
Volkswagen owned Bugatti’s Veyron broke the record for a production car in 2005 by hitting 254 mph (408.77 kmph) and in 2010, the Veyron Super Sport set another record with a top speed of 268 mph (431.30 kmph). However, with this latest top speed record, Bugatti is pulling out of the race to produce the fastest production cars. President of Bugatti, Stephan Winkelmann has said that with the new record, Bugatti forayed into unchartered territory, becoming the first series manufacturer to reach such speeds.
The Chiron that broke the speed record isn’t the standard production model that is available to customers. Bugatti calls it a “pre-production vehicle of a Chiron derivative,” having a longer, more aerodynamic body and reinforced tires from Michelin. The tiremaker played a key role in the Bugatti Chiron’s top speed run, creating special Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, capable of rotating at up to 4,100 times a minute. The tires were even X-rayed before being fitted onto Chiron to make sure no imperfections were present.
Bugatti head exterior designer Frank Heyl led the development of the car in collaboration with Italian automobile engineering firm Dallara and tyre manufacturer Michelin over the course of six months. The Chiron is fitted with a laser-controlled ride height adjustment system to reduce drag. Furthermore, the electronically controlled rear wing was removed in favour of a shorter cross-sectioned rear wing fused to a longer tail.
In addition, the car uses the exhaust system that was first introduced on Bugatti’s one-off Centodieci to reduce aerodynamic drag even further.
Mechanically, the engine of the car was modified to generate a power output of 1,578 bhp (1,177 kW; 1,600 PS) without any changes to the gearbox or the all-wheel-drive system. For safety reasons, six-point seat belts along with a fully-fledged roll cage were added and the passenger seat was replaced with the data recording equipment that was used to validate the run.
As far as superfast cars go, Bugatti has always been head and shoulders above the rest, as proved by the Chiron’s speedy glory.