Bugatti may have had its production car world speed record thrown into question, but it didn't take it sitting down. It picked itself up, grabbed one of its newest cars, and went out and set a new record. While it's a step down from the overall record, Bugatti's latest feat crowns its Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse roadster the world's fastest open-topped production car.
Bugatti's parent company Volkswagen just happens to have a track that's served as the backdrop for a number of world speed records: the Ehra-Lessien proving grounds. Chinese racing driver and entrepreneur Anthony Liu took to these hallowed grounds, grabbed the wheel and called upon every last hoof of the Vitesse's 1,183 horses, clocking his way into the record books at 254.04 mph (408.84 km/h).
"This was a very exciting moment," Liu said, his heart undoubtedly still punching his rib cage. "In our training sessions we exceeded 400 km/h, but the fact that I could surpass this unbelievable speed once again and even higher has made me very proud. The car is even at such high speeds incredibly comfortable and stable. With an open top, you can really experience the sound of the engine, and yet even at higher speeds, I did not get compromised by the wind at all."
The Vitesse uses a specially designed roof spoiler to cut interior turbulence and wind noise. Its racing chassis, lightning-quick shock absorbers, reinforced anti-roll bars, four-wheel-drive, and carbon monocoque and body transform the monstrous 8.0-liter W16's raw horsepower into pure speed.
The Bugatti record comes at a time of upheaval for world speed record racing. In July of 2010, Bugatti set the production car world speed record with the Veyron Super Sport, essentially the hard-topped version of the Vitesse, with a 267.8 mph (430.98 km/h) speed. That record stood for close to three years until the Hennessey Venom GT claimed to beat it ... with a 265.7 mph (427.6 km/h) claim.
Don't bother re-reading, Hennessey's speed is indeed lower than Bugatti's.
"While a Veyron Super Sport did run 267.8 mph, Bugatti speed-limits its production vehicles to 258 mph,” said company founder and president John Hennessey. "Thus, at 265.7 mph the Venom GT is the fastest hypercar available to the public."
Although the 258-mph (415 km/h) customer limit was publicly known at the time of the Bugatti record, Guinness was alarmed enough to order a review. Many news sources reported late last week and early this week that Bugatti had been stripped of its record, but a statement posted to Guinness' website updated on Wednesday reads:
"With reference to the record for the ‘Fastest production car’ which was awarded to the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport in 2010, Guinness World Records would like to confirm that Bugatti's record has not been disqualified; the record category is currently under review."
So that means that Hennessey is in line for the record, right? It would appear not. Hennessey was careful in its wording, avoiding the simple words "fastest production car." The language used in the rest of the press release is similarly evasive, and Hennessey doesn't mention Guinness ratification.
Shelby Supercars, whose Ultimate Aero set the official record back in 2007 with 256.14 run, was more than happy to step into the void. It put out a press release on Tuesday reclaiming the record.
"This wasn't how we planned to reclaim the record," SSC founder Jerod Shelby said. "But it will do until the Tuatara takes a run at several records that exist out there."
With Guinness reviewing the books, nothing's official yet.
Bugatti didn't mention Guinness in its Vitesse roadster world speed record, instead citing TÜV, the independent German organization for technical Inspection and certification, as the official witness and confirming party.
The original Vitesse launched last year, and Bugatti plans to introduce the World Record Car special edition at the Shanghai Motor Show later this month. The €1.99 million ($2.61 million) special edition will be limited to just eight models. It will sport the same black-and-orange color scheme featured on the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, but it may just leave the speed limiter at the factory.