How Do You Stop a Rocket?

Jan. 1, 2020
"When getting close to the top speed during the test, the tires will only last for about 15 minutes, but that's OK because the fuel runs out in 12."?- James May, Top Gear magazine
VEHICLE NEWSHow Do You Stop a Rocket?  "When getting close to the top speed during the test, the tires will only last for about 15 minutes, but that's OK because the fuel runs out in 12." 
- James May, Top Gear magazine
Amateurs Need Not Apply 
Built by Volkswagen AG subsidiary Bugatti Automobiles SAS in its Molsheim (Alsace, France) factory, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is named after French racing driver Pierre Veyron, who won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1939 while racing for the original Bugatti firm. It is also the world's second modern "supercar" with 16 cylinders, after the Cizeta Moroder V16T.

After the release of the car, it was reported that the production costs of the car are approximately ?5 million (US$ 9.9 million) per vehicle. This is not the price to produce one vehicle, but rather the cost of the entire Veyron project divided by the number of vehicles produced at that time.
(Photo: Bugatti)

CHICAGO - The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 isn't your everyday, run-of-the-mill vehicle. With a proven top speed of more than 400 km/h (407.5 km/h or 253.2 mph), the Veyron is currently the fastest, most powerful and most expensive street-legal full production car in the world, though several faster or more expensive vehicles have been produced on a limited basis.

First introduced as an advanced concept car in 1999, production on the Veyron was scheduled to begin in 2003. However, there were two serious incidents in 2002 - a fatal prototype test crash in 2002 and then a spinout during a public demonstration in Laguna Seca, Calif. Volkswagen AG, Bugatti's parent company, sent the vehicle back to the drawing board and its high-security private track in Germany, a 60-mile circuit with a 5.5-mile long straightaway, to resolve high-speed stability problems. 

By 2005, the revamped Veyron was ready for its debut, and a limited run of 300 cars was produced in 2006. The sports car is now one of the most expensive and powerful vehicles sold in the world today, priced at around US$1.5 million each.

Blistering acceleration Powered by an 8.0L W16 alloy engine and fed by four turbochargers, the powerplant can generate 1,000 hp and a top speed of more than 250 mph. With a curb weight of just over 4,100 lbs., the Veyron's power-to-weight ratio is a startling 529 hp/tonne.  In addition, the sports car can accelerate from a dead stop to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds, and reach 185 mph in less than 17 seconds. Recently, James May, a test driver for Top Gear magazine, drove the Veyron at Volkswagen's facility and noted, "This engine sucks in more air in during one minute than I breathe in four days."  Click here to view 
a video of 
James May's test drive of the 
Bugatti Veyron at Volkswagen's test track in Germany.
To reach the maximum speed, a driver must use a special key to toggle the lock to the left of his seat. The key functions only when the vehicle is at a stop; the vehicle establishes through a predetermined "checklist" whether it - and its driver - are ready to enable top speed mode. If all systems are go, the Veyron hunkers down for the ride: The rear spoiler retracts, the front air diffusers close and the ground clearance, normally 12.4 cm (4.9 inches), drops to 6.6 cm (2.6 inches). Otherwise, according to the manufacturer, the car's everyday top speed is listed at 234 mph. When the car reaches 220 km/h (137 mph), the car automatically enters "handling mode." Hydraulics lower the car until it has a ground clearance of about 3.5 inches and the rear wing/spoiler deploys, providing 770 lbs. of down-force to hold the car to the road. 
The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 features an 8.0L quad-turbo alloy engine with 16 cylinders in four banks of four cylinders, set up like two narrow-angle V8 engines side-by-side in a "W" formation.
(Photo: Bugatti)

Available with either an automatic or a seven-speed, dual clutch sequential manual transmission, the Veyron prowls on custom Michelin run-flat tires. To dissipate the high heat generated by the engine, 10 separate radiators are put to use. 

According to May, who drove the vehicle at Volkswagen's private test track, "When getting close to the top speed during the test, the tires will only last for about 15 minutes, but that's OK because the fuel runs out in 12." Bugatti officials have since corrected May, explaining that at full throttle, the Veyron swallows more than 125 L/100 km, which would empty its 26.4-gallon fuel tank in 12.5 minutes.

So ... how do you brake a rocket? The Veyron's brakes feature unique cross-drilled and turbine-vented carbon rotors, which draw in cooling air to reduce brake fade. Each caliper has eight titanium pistons. Bugatti claims maximum deceleration of 1.3 g on road tires and has subjected the car to repeated 1.0 g braking from 194 to 50 mph without fade. With the car's fearsome acceleration from 50 to 194 mph, that test can be performed every 22 seconds. 
The Veyron's rear spoiler snaps vertically to 70 degrees to assist braking.
(Photo: Bugatti)

At speeds higher than 125 mph, the rear wing also serves as an airbrake. Once the wheel brakes are applied, the rear wing snaps to a 70-degree angle in just 0.4 seconds, which provides another 0.5 g of deceleration. Bugatti says that the combination enables the Veyron to brake from 250 mph to a standstill in less than 10 seconds. The braking is also so evenly applied that the car will not deviate from a straight path if the driver lets go of the steering wheel, even with the brakes fully applied starting from close to top speed. 

For speed freaks, the Veyron delivers two thrills: unsurpassed acceleration that leaves your gut at the starting line and stopping power that will feel like hooking the last wire on an aircraft carrier.

Click here for specs and more pictures.

(Sources: Bugatti, Top Gear, Wikipedia,

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