My Motoring Month

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200MPH-Plus felt ‘Undramatic’ in ultimate Veyron

A brief but memorable encounter with the ultimate Bugatti Veyron, the 1200bhp Super Sport. Although it looks like the normal car, everything about it is different from the bodywork, to the suspension, (British) gearbox and, of course, the mighty 8-litre, V16, quadturbo motor. The car is not only 200hp more powerful, it’s lower, lighter and grippier too.

I was gate-crashing someone else’s party and was keen not to outstay my welcome, but I hung around long enough to get two laps of Bruntingthorpe at the wheel, including the full length of its 10,000ff runway.

You’ll get an idea of how absurdly fast the Super Sport is when I tell you that on my first sighting lap it cruised up to 200mph with the same nonchalance that most fast cars reach 100mph. It felt absurdly quick and composed given that I was asking two tonnes of mass to change direction with each wheel-turn.

Trying to enter the runway as fast as possible for the second lap caused serious traction issues on the cold concrete, despite its ultra-sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. Only when it was pointing straight was it possible to put all 1106Ib ft of torque where it was needed.

All speed is relative and, in this case, relative to the environment you’re in. If you do 50mph inside a channel tunnel train it feels like 200mph anywhere else. Or so I’m told. Likewise, 200mph in a car as stable as the Super Sport on a runway wide enough to cope with Cold War bombers is almost disappointingly undramatic. Eventually it wound itself up to an indicated 226mph (about a true 218mph) despite a 30mph crosswind meaning we had to run with the wings in maximum downforce configuration. Wings in, it would have blown past a real 230mph without problem.

The truth is that though the numbers (1200bhp, 1100lb ft etc) are mind-boggling, the car itself is remarkably easy to drive so long as you have the space in which such power can be safely deployed.

By any statistical measure the Super Sport is the fastest road car the world has ever known. Its replacement should endeavour to be nothing less than the greatest. Imagine a three-quarter-scale Veyron more compact and therefore more usable, with just the 900bhp from its 6-litre, V12 engine to power its 1500kg mass. The power-to-weight ratio would be the same, the driving experience transformed beyond recognition.

*

Kankkunen’s Bentley on ice stuns Derek Bell
Derek Bell has been working for Bentley for at least a decade, brought in to advise and be a brand ambassador during the three-year assault on Le Mans which ended in success in 2003. But in all that time I’ve never seen him so wide-eyed as when he recounted watching Juha Kankkunen drive a Superspoits Continental at 205mph across the frozen Baltic sea.

“I went out across the ice at 130mph in a Volkswagen and that was interesting enough,” he mused, “but watching Juha well, that was something else.” The four-times World Rally Champion elected not to use studded tyres “he didn’t like the feel of them” and had to constantly correct the car in his five-kilometre run up to maximum speed. “Its one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen,” said Derek, who doesn’t impress easily. I could have been there too, but an altogether more tedious prior engagement kept me in the UK. Kicking myself now.

*

Norman’s swiss E-type all-nighter: England expects
Met Norman Dewis on the shores of Lake Geneva at the Hotel du Parc des Eaux Vives for the 50th anniversary of the E-type celebrations. He’d been testing an E at MIRA one afternoon in March 1961, only to be told that both it and he were required at this very hotel for breakfast. He drove flat out through the night from Coventry to Geneva, delivered the car on time and, exhausted, asked Lofty England where his hotel was. “Why do you want to know that?” was the reply. “You need to start demonstrating the car.” Which he duly did. All day. Now 90 years old, he still looks fit enough to do it again.

Followed the route Norman used to terrify journalists half a century ago in Stefan Ziegler’s ultra-original lightweight. On the rare occasions I could give it a squirt it was properly fast. Fifty years ago a normal E-type would have been electrifying. A lightweight must have appeared from another world.