- Out on the racetrack with Bugatti’s new Chirons
- Hypercars at speed – but in hypercomfort, too
- Paul Ricard circuit host in southern France
MOLSHEIM, France -The feet dance over the two pedals. The hands move like lightning. Precisely, without getting hectic. It’s a real pleasure to watch him at work.
Who? Former Formula 1 driver, multi-times driver in the Le Mans 24-Hours and winner in the GT class of that legendary race, Pierre-Henri Raphanel. He’s steering a Bugatti Chiron Sport2 on the Paul Ricard racetrack near Les Castellet in southern France with extreme precision and sensitivity.
The 57-year-old Frenchman has been working as a test driver for Bugatti for years. Now hes fulfilled a very special mission.
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
Together with Bugatti enthusiasts and former racing driver and Le Mans winner Andy Wallace, he’s shown how the hyper sport-cars Chiron1 and Chiron Sport2 push the boundaries of physics on the track.
“Where better to test a hypercar extensively and safely than on a racetrack?” Raphanel asked. ”Even novices quickly feel at home here.” Together with Andy Wallace, he ensures that the first ride in a Bugatti model is absolutely safe and that the passengers are comfortable.
Raphanel knows Bugatti models well. Even at top speed. In 2010 he set a World speed record for road vehicles at 431.072km/h in a Bugatti Veyron – but he won’t go for the track record on the Circuit Paul Ricard. “That’s not the point,” he said. ”We go very fast on the straights but accelerating through curves is much more interesting – and easy with the Chiron.”
Circuit Le Castellet is said to be a perfect course for test drives. It also hosted the Circuit Le Castellet 14 times between 1971 and 1990 and since 2018 the cars have been gearing up on the starting line here there. The 2019 French Formula 1 GP will be raced here on June 23.
Bugatti, in the “Golden Decade” of the 1920s, won Grands Prix seven times between 1925 and 1936, though on other racetracks.
HAMILTON IS FASTER, BUT…
Lewis Hamilton needed 1min30:11 for a 5.842km race lap on the new track in southern France in 2018 at an average speed of more than 206km/h. Raphanel again: “We’re not quite that fast because a Formula 1 racing car is built much more uncompromisingly than a Bugatti Chiron but the hyper sport-car has more power and, above all, comfort.”
And, we guess, if you can afford a Chiron you won’t be worried about the cost of fuel – the car is rated at 35.2 litres in the city, dropping to 15.2 out on country roads.