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Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4 Speed-Record Debrief

0-60 talks to Bugatti test driver, speed-record pilot Pierre-Henri Raphanel

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  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4
  • Bugatti Veyron Supersports 16.4

Last week, Bugatti test driver, er, pilote official, Pierre Henri Raphanel set the production-car speed record in Bugatti’s new Veyron Supersports 16.4. The 1,200 horsepower, 1,106 pound-feet monster propelled Raphanel to timed runs of 265.9 and 269.8 mph on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track near Wolfsburg, which according to the Guinness people, averages to a V-max of 267.81 mph. That’s more than enough to bring the title of world’s fastest production car back to the VW fold. We phoned the former F1 and Japanese touring-car driver to get his take on what it’s like to approach the 270 mph mark in a production car, why the forest is his friend and whether or not he’s up to try for 300.

What does going 268mph in a Veyron feel like?

It’s basically a mental exercise. Physically, you have to do nothing more than to keep your right foot flat out. But at that speed, if anything happens, you can be sure that you won’t be coming back to the pits to tell what was the problem. And that is what is making the pressure, the excitement. The night before I could not sleep because I was so stressed. When I woke up, I looked at the alarm [clock] and it said 4:27. And the next day on my first run I did 427 kilometers per hour. And two days after setting the record I continued to sleep badly because of the stress and the adrenaline and I was waking up at 4:26 and was like I was also cooling down and the speed on the clock was also slowing down.

As a driver, is there a difference between going 268 and going, say, “just” 250?

When you’re driving 250 in a Veyron, the car is completely solid, it doesn’t move and you can nearly do that with two fingers. When you’re trying to do the speed record, there is an interaction between the tarmac and the car that you cannot notice when you’re going 250. When you start to go 260, 265, 270 the car is a little bit following where the tarmac is telling to the car to go. And it’s a strange feeling because you are not really in control as a driver. You don’t know where it’s going to end up. You don’t have any interaction with the steering because it’s too fast and you don’t want to move anything. So it’s like an unknown situation because nobody has been there before, even at the factory in practice. It’s quite stressful.

That does sound stressful.

Also, where we did the run. [Ehra-Lessien] is in the middle of a forest. And there’s no space for anything to be even slightly wrong. It’s not like a salt lake.

Did you encounter anything unexpected during the record run?

For the world record you have to do two straight lines in both directions. At Ehra-Lessien, nobody has been driving on it the reverse way, so it was like a complete discovery for me and for the team. I only had three runs to discover that. You will tell me that you have nothing to discover because it’s only a straight line. Yes, of course, but the tarmac is reacting differently. It was actually much more difficult to make the first run, which was slower, in the wrong direction than it was to make the second run, which was faster, but in the normal direction of road use.

Also, when we were going the reverse way, we were facing a little bit of wind, which is why we couldn’t achieve the same speed as the other side. And at the end of the straight [I found that] if I was braking later, I would be protected [from the wind] by the forest. So I decided that I would put my braking point later, like 300 meters, just to arrive in this area of forest cover protected from the wind and I would get an extra one mile per hour. So I did that the day before and it was working, so I repeated that the next day. But also when I did that, because I knew that I was late in braking, I’d brake a little bit harder, which is very light when you go such kind of speed, and suddenly the car went from the center lane to the right lane. And I was like, not in control. And the forest was very close. So I think that one extra mile was because of me, and I’m quite proud of that.

Do you notice the extra 199 horsepower?

Compared to any other supercar in which you feel engine power going down and you shift gears, in the Veyron the power never goes down. It’s always there. With the Supersport, not only is the engine power not going down, it’s increasing. So the feeling of power is going up, the feeling of speed is going up. It’s just pushing away. It’s an amazing feeling.

How does the Veyron Supersports compare to other speed-record production cars?

People try to compare cars, to say, well this car is faster, more powerful, more something. The thing which is very different in Bugatti is that we’re trying to make things working together which are not supposed to work together. Which is to say, the fastest car in the world that can stay seven hours in traffic in first gear. Normally it doesn’t work together. And the same from the design of the car. Is this design made to go 268 mph? Yes, it’s going, but basically if you start from a blank piece of paper and you say I want to make a car going the fastest speed in the world, basically you will not choose this design. The design came first, and they had to give it to the engineer, who had to work around the design without touching it. That’s the story of the Veyron. And it is this combination that’s making a lot of engineering work, because you’re trying to achieve long life, quality, speed, luxury, easy to drive; you want to get everything and normally nobody can get everything. If you try to get all these things in the same car, it’s incredible. The Supersport will be a three-years’ warranty car. So it’s not like you buy a car then, ok, you use it and after one day everything is destroyed. And that’s where the engineering process is difficult and expensive.

With the Supersport the engineer said we need the design to follow our request in engineering – more power, more speed more torque – and the designer followed the engineering request in terms of downforce, cooling [e.g., those beautiful NACA ducts on top – ed] and those kinds of things, and they made the car. So it was a little bit of a reverse process than the Veyron.

The target for the engineers was to make a Veyron with more power, more speed, more torque. It’s a completely different exercise than if you say, ok I want to achieve just the world record, and you build a car with all the aerodynamics and the thinking in this kind of direction. The Veyron is an everyday car which you can drive as easily in traffic in first gear as on the other side, which you can go 268 miles per hour. With that car, with that engine, with that gearbox we did like 30 preparation runs around 260 miles per hour just to be sure. And this car will continue to be used as a test car. And I was saying to the [engineer] ‘But I will not get a new gearbox? A new engine?’ I would have preferred starting with something completely fresh, completely out of the box. But it is not a problem.

It’s the same thing with the tires. These are the series tires. [Michelin PAX run-flats, 245/690 R 520 (front), 365/710 R 540 (rear) – ed] When you’re doing this type of extreme speed, the life of the tire is very short, not just in terms of wear but in terms of structure. And the day before I did maybe five runs, and the next day, I had to use the same tires. And I was saying, ‘don’t you feel that we have to change tires?’ And the engineer said, no, we know we have some spare in the life of the tires, so we don’t need to change tires. For me, that was incredible, but also very, very stressful.

So what about 300 miles per hour. Are you down with that?

With the feeling I got last week, I will say, not for me. I think I gave everything that was possible.

If you could have any Veyron you wanted in any color scheme, which would it be?

You cannot compare the Supersport, I mean to drive it, that’s something that would not make a Veyron stand out, which is incredible. I always say the Veyron is like another planet. But now I’m out of words to explain what the Supersport is. In the Veyron we have a series which is black carbon, only 15 cars, black with the orange inside [Sang Noir -- ed] and the look of the black carbon, big wheels was the most sporty I have seen. That’s the one.

COMMENTS
  • Crenshaw says:
    July 7, 2010 at 1:45 pm
    Reply

    Not sure if I would trust the engineer after making five 250 mph runs, on the same tires, then use them again. Dude is nuts.

    • Iztaci Popo says:
      July 8, 2010 at 2:33 am
      Reply

      Hey Crenshaw! You sound so flippin knowledgeable about this stuff I think I'll just put you in charge of everything.

  • Willie G. says:
    July 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm
    Reply

    Hey Dummy! Dinosaurz are extinct!

  • PETER J EVANS says:
    July 9, 2010 at 7:56 am
    Reply

    TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT RAPHANEL IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT, HE IS LUCKY TO HAVE SUCH A JOB, LETS SAY, HE EARNED A LOT OF RESPECT FROM ALL AT BUGATTI, WHICH HE WOULD AGGREE WITH, MOST OF US READERS WOULD HAVE CRASHED IT, TAKING ALL OF THE CARE EXPECTED, YET WE KNOW ,MOST HAVE NOWHERE NEAR THE EXPERIENCE. i WOULD SAY TO MODIFY WITH A 94" WHEELBASE AND SINGLE PILOT SEAT AND WATCH THE SSC AREO, GO BACKWARDS OR KILL IT'S PILOT, MAYBE THE BUG SS USES 130 LITRES PER 100K!. NUF SAID. PJ

  • -piz- says:
    July 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm
    Reply

    WHY THE FUCK ARE WE YELLING!?!?!

  • JNBrooks says:
    July 19, 2010 at 2:54 am
    Reply

    Great interview, good work 0-60!!!!!! And as for the Veyron, simply Best Ever.

  • jack thompson says:
    July 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm
    Reply

    The new veyron is extraudanary. A beautiful, 2 seater, road rampaging car. 1,200hp 268mph to mess around with.A true terror to the ssc ultima airo.

  • Tactical Vests says:
    July 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm
    Reply

    I want to have this car as my back up car. But the watch on the picture are nice.

  • Barns says:
    August 18, 2010 at 3:13 pm
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    Amazing. Amazing. And more than a tad nuts. I drove a brand new Ferrari on a race track (high banked oval) on a hot day. Melted the tires on one run. A note of interest ... There is Veyron putting about in my neighborhood. I expect the driver will eventually be cited for driving too .... slow. I met a man in central Europe who owned one. Don't know who owns it now. He met his end in a hail of bullets at a red traffic light in an intersection. I understand he was not driving his Bugatti....

  • Matty says:
    August 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm
    Reply

    I have driven 166 in a new Corvette and to me that was as fast as I would ever want to drive. It's hard to imagine adding an extra 100 MPH on top of the 166 MPH I have achieved. The Telephone poles were buzzing by so fast, all I could think about is the brake rotors would be glowing if I went to apple the brakes at that speed. I let the car decelerate to about 80 MPH before I hit the brakes a little. I was running out of road near the end. I would love to own a Bugatti Super Sport, it's my favorite Dream Car for sure. I would keep it in the garage and wax it every day. And I would even give the 2nd key to my mom so she could enjoy it also. I am a retired Pilot and flew some fast planes, The Gulfstream IV/V are some great planes. The quality of the Bugatti is right up there as the best in the World. I witnessed a video clip of the actor Tom Cruise driving a new Super Sport, what a lucky gent. I would like to have a New Super Sport for a week, or two 8-)

  • Another Million-Dollar Hypercar for America. Ho-Hum. | 0-60 Magazine says:
    October 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm
    Reply

    [...] The realm of hypercars available in America has grown yet again, as a central Indiana company is now bringing the Zenvo ST1 to these United States. The world’s fastest Danish Dane won’t be cheap, though—expect to pay a cool $1,225,000 for your personal copy of the car, according to Autoblog, a price that puts it between the $970,000 SSC Ultimate Aero II and the $2.3 million Bugatti 16.4 Veyron Super Sport. [...]

  • a.mick says:
    October 29, 2010 at 3:16 pm
    Reply

    i was wondering if u know who holds the record for driving the fastest backwards

  • Lights says:
    November 14, 2010 at 3:49 am
    Reply

    When I open your RSS feed it throws up a page of unformatted html, is the issue on my side?

  • Bugatti Veyron Stripped Of "World's Fastest Car" Title! | Rides Magazine says:
    April 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm
    Reply

    [...] the last three years, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport’s tested and proven 267.8 mph top speed has made it the fastest production car in the world, according to the people at Guinness World [...]

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