On the centenary of one of the most revered motorsport events in the world, Bugatti returned to Le Mans, showcasing the Bolide to the public for the very first time with a legendary and highly decorated driver taking to the wheel of the brand’s high-performance track-only hyper sports car.
Bugatti’s esteemed motorsport heritage is intrinsically entwined with the history of Le Mans 24 Hours. Over the course of many years – 10 decades in fact – the Molsheim luxury brand has realized unforgettable milestone moments at the motorsport event. And in perfect timing to celebrate 100 years of Le Mans 24 Hours, Bugatti this weekend delivered another magical moment to onlooking crowds.
On the hallowed asphalt on which so much history has been made, the Bugatti Bolide¹ took a track lap at the Le Mans 24 Hours circuit on Saturday afternoon. As it did, an energizing atmosphere – meshing genuine surprise and excitement with absolute respect – ushered across the crowds as spectators were given not one but two defining moments: the Bolide presented in its full glory to the public for the very first time and Andy Wallace, a Le Mans winner of 1988, taking to the wheel of the track-only hyper sports car in a showstopping lap.
One of the world’s finest endurance racers, Andy, who has been a Pilote Officiel for Bugatti since 2011, is part of a very select group of people to have won the Triple Crown of Le Mans 24 Hours, 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Such a peerless track record in racing is the perfect fit to oversee the Bolide’s first public outing. Speaking moments after driving the Bolide, Andy said: “To take to the wheel of the Bolide at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was a very special moment; the energy from the crowd and how they connected to the car is something that will stay with me for a lifetime.
“The Bolide looks and feels – in every respect – like a real racing car with genuine outstanding high-performance capabilities. The fact that it generates around twice its own weight in downforce at maximum speed, giving the car a very high level of grip and stability in high-speed corners is in its own right incredibly impressive. But to then match that prowess with Bugatti’s W16 engine, developing 1,600 PS, takes the Bolide to an entirely new level. The car is breath-taking in every sense.”
Christophe Piochon, President of Bugatti Automobiles, added: “There can be no better way than to celebrate 100 years of Le Mans by debuting a Bugatti tour-de-force that is simply unlike anything we have ever done before. Bugatti and the 24 Hours of Le Mans have a deep and long held connection – we were there at the very first race 100 years ago. I speak on behalf of Bugatti when I say we are therefore incredibly proud to have delivered another historic and unique moment at Le Mans, a moment that will forever be cherished.”
At the nucleus of the Bolide is Bugatti’s iconic quad turbo 8.0-litre W16 heart, deftly encased within an aerodynamically optimized carbon body. To achieve the track-focused maximum performance of the Bolide, the brakes are an essential component. Inspired by F1 technology, the experts at Brembo S.p.A, an Italian based world leader in the field of automotive brake technology, have created a highly advanced and tailored braking system for the Bolide with 390 mm brake discs and unique calipers (8 pistons on the front axle and 6 pistons on the rear axle), ensuring the car’s stopping power can master its outstanding dynamic driving capabilities.
Making the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans event even more special this weekend was the presence of two extraordinary Bugatti automobiles in addition to the public debut of the Bolide. Taking to the circuit on Saturday, following Andy’s drive of the Bolide, was a one-off blue Bugatti EB110S “Le Mans”, which took part in the highly acclaimed Parade of the Grande Exposition Du Centenaire. This legendary car participated in the world-famous race in 1994, exactly 55 years after Bugatti’s last victory at Le Mans. An accident – following technical problems – unfortunately ended the race too early for the iconic blue Bugatti, but it nevertheless left a lasting impression in the hearts of motorsport fans worldwide. Seeing the EB110S LM take to the revered asphalt once more captured yet another historic Bugatti moment for onlookers that reveled in the experience.
The illustrious Bugatti Type 50S was on display as part of a special centenarian exhibition at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum. In the early 1930s, several examples of the Type 50S took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in the 1931 race there were three competing examples. As part of a protest against the racing officials, Ettore Bugatti had the three cars start that year in black instead of the usual French Racing Blue. Among others, the legendary racing drivers Louis Chiron and Albert Divo started for Bugatti. Throughout the competition, the three Type 50S cars fought for the leading positions for a long time, but the tires struggled to match the power, pace and performance of the Type 50S’s. Following a tragic accident involving one of the Type 50S racers, Ettore decided to withdraw the two remaining cars from the race. On display at this year’s event, the Type 50S is graced with the starting number 5, which was driven back in 1931 by Albert Divo and Guy Bouriat, thrilled fans wanting to experience motorsport history in the present day.
The EB110S LM, Type 50S and the first public outing of the Bolide made what was already a special historic motorsport gathering at the weekend even more extraordinary, adding a sense of timelessness that only a brand like Bugatti can generate.