Behind the scenes: driving a £2.6m Bugatti Chiron Super Sport around the Nürburgring
Remember when we drove a 1,578bhp Chiron SS at 211mph on the Autobahn and around the ‘Ring in the rain?
If you haven’t watched our video review of the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport, that culminates in us driving unintentionally sideways around the Nurburgring in the hosing rain, may I suggest you do so by clicking these blue words. If you haven’t read our review of the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport please do so by clicking here.
Excellent, now you have some context for what was arguably one of the stupidest things that Top Gear has ever done. But somehow, we didn’t end up in a crumbled heap somewhere in the Adenau forest, we survived. This gallery is a chronological tour behind the scenes of a shoot we’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.Advertisement - Page continues below
I mean, as locations for picking up a loan vehicle go, this beats the VW Group press garage in Milton Keynes. The Chateau St. Jean is where Ettore Bugatti used to receive his customers and celebrate their purchase, probably with a couple of bottles of expensive champagne, before sending them on their merry way. The house has been fully restored and the tradition of using it to schmooze customers continues today, with the ground floor dedicated to an exhibition on the brand’s history. Naturally we massively outstayed our welcome taking endless photographs and shooting the opening sequence of the video here… before we were kindly asked to get on with it.
This is Dave Hale. Dave makes videos… really, really beautiful ones. This is him getting some of those super-slick details that you’ll see peppered throughout the film. Dave’s job is to try and make me look good and like I know what I’m talking about. Pray for Dave.Advertisement - Page continues below
Generally, a black car is the sworn enemy of the photo or video lens. Both Dave and Dennis (photographer, you’ll meet him in a bit) sighed audibly when they saw ‘our’ Super Sport. They both swore loudly when they saw the colour of the one sitting on the other side of the Chateau… but no amount of pleading could change Bugatti’s mind. Black it was.
A lot to unpack here. We just found a clear stretch of derestricted Autobahn and managed to hit 211mph. On a public road. Legally… and safely given how within its comfort zone the car still was. We’ve pulled into a layby to review what we’ve got.
For insurance purposes Andy Wallace (Bugatti test driver, man who drove a McLaren F1 at 250mph, and more recently a Chiron SS at 304mph) had to be in the passenger seat at all times. Fine by me, as co-pilots go he was brilliant company and spent most of his time egging me on, but it also meant he had to be camera operator while I was in charge of my own audio.
I’ve got the headphones on, checking we recorded something useable, Dave is making sure the GoPros were actually switched on, Andy seems to be showing Rowan pictures of his cat and a truck driver has appeared to take pictures that he can wow his mates with in the Road Grill later.
This is Dennis Noten, photographer extraordinaire, barely out of nappies but already a master of his craft. That craft being sitting around patiently in the boot of an Audi Q3 rental waiting for journalists to stop pointing out interesting features to any passing pedestrians who show a slight bit of interest. He was there a while.
Obligatory petrol station pic. Except this isn’t any petrol station, it’s the ED station on the Döttinger Höhe, about 4km from the Nurburgring entrance – last chance to top up. Extra points if you can spot the fill-up shot in the video where my finger appears to be dripping with blood. It was, still have no idea how that happened, perhaps it was a bad omen of what was to come…Advertisement - Page continues below
We hadn’t even arrived at the track yet and already the carparazzi were swarming all over it.
See what I mean? Parked up here to get some moody shots with the track snaking off into the distance and the world and his sister descended. Getting close to our lap now, nerves are jangling, grateful for the well-placed Portaloo.Advertisement - Page continues below
Couldn’t they have just called it ‘Access Card’ or ‘Swipe Card’? Nope ‘GREEN HELL CARD’ it is. Insert this at the barrier for 12.9 miles of pure pleasure/terror (delete as appropriate).
If you’ve watched the video you’ll know this is the diesel BMW 3 Series compact that kept me and my 1,578bhp hypercar behind it for most of the lap. Was it as galling as it looked? Yes, but the rain was coming down in bannisters and there was literally no grip. Within one corner it was a fight for survival… and my family’s solvency.
To have any meaningful purchase on the surface Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s need temperature – about 35 degrees a corner in the wet, but heating them up when anything faster than a jog and a whiff of steering lock equalled a code brown moment, was next to impossible. So we slid around like we’re on ice, waiting to hit something and steal tomorrow’s headlines. Miraculously we made it around.
Ha! This Renaultsport Megane Trophy-R driver probably thought they were going to be in the most over-priced car on the Nürburgring that day! Small victory, but we’ll take it.
Well, you can’t lap and survive the Green Hell without putting a sticker on your £3m hypercar to commemorate it, can you? Bugatti, please send the bill for paintwork damage to the usual address.