Skip advert
Advertisement

'Top speed may ultimately be pointless, but it’s still fun chasing that childhood rush'

Doing the best part of 230mph in a Skoda Octavia vRS was strangely undramatic

Dickie Header

Speed. It’s fair to assume that if you’re an evo reader you’re partial to going fast on four wheels. In which case it won’t have escaped your notice that a prototype Bugatti Chiron developed purely for the task of going obscenely fast delivered on its objective (and some!) by hitting 304.773mph at the Ehra-Lessien test facility with Andy Wallace at the wheel.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The allure of straight-line speed is a curious thing. Quite why it grips so soon and so completely shouldn’t be so hard to understand, for whether it’s running around on foot or tearing about on bicycles we learn as children that it’s fun to go fast, something that clearly remained with some of us into adulthood and shaped how we seek our kicks. In these painfully woke and politically correct times it is perhaps not the done thing to glory in the delights to be had from wantonly chasing the horizon, but firstly I’m old enough not to care and secondly, I’ve been fast enough often enough to know there’s something very particular about the pure and simple exhilaration of going very quickly in a straight line.

> Bugatti Chiron review - the £2.5m hypercar we've been waiting for

Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

The first encounter I had with serious speed was as an impressionable child, squished in the back of a V12 HE Jaguar XJS in, I’d guess the mid-’80s. The car – black with tan leather, in case you’re curious – was owned by a very good friend of my parents who always had interesting cars. Just to paint a picture, he was also very fond of then state-of-the-art gadgets. You know the kind of thing: massive mobile phone that was basically a car battery with a handset, and a first-gen video camera you had to carry on your shoulder. Naturally I thought he was the coolest man on the planet.

Advertisement - Article continues below

So you can imagine my delight when not only did we hit an indicated 150mph in the Jag on the M3 somewhere near Fleet Services, but because the car also had a phone I was able to call my best chum (on his mum and dad’s home number, natch) as we were doing it. Today such behaviour would be frowned upon, but so far as I was concerned it was the most exciting moment in my young life, and still ranks as one of my most vivid motoring moments.

Since then I’ve been fast many times. Often on derestricted autobahns – an unfailing mighty feeling in the right car if you’re lucky enough to find a clear stretch, or dedicated enough to lurk in motorway service areas until the early hours – and once on the salt at Bonneville. Strangely, although setting a record at the hallowed home of speed is one of the driving achievements I’m most proud of, doing the best part of 230mph in a Skoda Octavia vRS was strangely undramatic, the act of going as fast as car and courage would take me across the stark, featureless dry lakebed more akin to a journey into existentialism than anything you’d describe as driving.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Fittingly the only time I’ve driven faster also involved a Chiron and a certain Mr Wallace alongside me, though I should stress this was just the Popular Plus version, not his 300+ special, and it wasn’t even switched into V-max mode. Still, I can safely say ‘only’ doing 237mph was pretty bloody remarkable. Especially as it romped into the first of its two-stage electronic speed limiters like a runaway Jack Russell terrier reaching the end of its extendable leash. I won’t say where we were driving, but it wasn’t in the UK. Or indeed a runway or proving ground. I doubt I’ll ever go quicker in a road car.

> Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ marks 304.7mph achievement

Is 300mph the last great frontier for road-legal hypercars? It has to be close, though 500kph presents another nice, numerical barrier to have a crack at. Crazy though it may seem, even though Bugatti claimed to call time on setting speed records after completing the historic 304mph run, it couldn’t help but point out that if the difference in air density between Ehra-Lessien and other high-altitude test locations (such as closed roads in Nevada) were taken into consideration, the thinner air and lower drag adds a theoretical 15.5mph to the Chiron’s top speed. That tips the Big Bug beyond 320mph, which I think we can all agree is probably sufficient.

Is top speed the original pointless performance benchmark? Probably. It’s certainly hard to argue its relevance in the age of average-speed cameras, let alone national speed limits and growing environmental pressures. That said, unlike 0-62mph times and Nordschleife laps, there’s something undeniably impressive about ever-higher V-max. Probably because we all remember the time we first did 100mph, so therefore have a quantum by which to gauge what 150, 200 or even 300 might feel like.

The irony is, of course, however quick our cars are now we’re all just chasing that childhood rush of pedalling a bicycle down a steep hill until your legs can’t keep up, or busting a gut (and most likely a head gasket) in the fruitless quest of coaxing your ageing Mini to show an indicated ton. All of which I find strangely comforting, for it affirms why for us at least, speed really is the essence.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Evoluto’s modernised Ferrari 355 is designed to be the ultimate analogue driver’s car
Evoluto Ferrari 355 – front
News

Evoluto’s modernised Ferrari 355 is designed to be the ultimate analogue driver’s car

Evoluto Automobili will build 55 examples of its Ferrari 355 restomod, each featuring a stiffer carbon-fused shell, bespoke bodywork and a reworked 85…
11 Jul 2024
Wild Aston Martin Valiant launched as track-honed V12 special
Aston Martin Valiant
News

Wild Aston Martin Valiant launched as track-honed V12 special

The brainchild of Fernando Alonso, the new Aston Martin Valiant is a more focused take on the V12-powered Valour
25 Jun 2024
The £315,000 Ford Mustang GTD is a GT3 car for the road
Ford Mustang GTD
News

The £315,000 Ford Mustang GTD is a GT3 car for the road

A collaboration between Ford Performance and Multimatic, the GTD is the most extreme road-going Mustang ever produced
18 Jun 2024
McLaren Artura Spider 2024 review – Ferrari 296 rival just got a whole lot better
McLaren Artura Spider
Reviews

McLaren Artura Spider 2024 review – Ferrari 296 rival just got a whole lot better

More power, comprehensive chassis updates and a new Spider model has resulted in McLaren’s Artura being impossible to ignore for those in the junior s…
16 Jun 2024
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Saab PhoeniX – dead on arrival
Saab PhoeniX
Features

Saab PhoeniX – dead on arrival

The Swedish brand’s failed 2010s revival meant we missed out on a 400bhp hybrid TT rival – and more
11 Jul 2024
Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar will offer F1 performance, and you can bring a passenger along for the ride
Red Bull RB17
News

Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar will offer F1 performance, and you can bring a passenger along for the ride

Adrian Newey is leaving Red Bull, but his final project with the team is a 1184bhp+ V10 hypercar that can match F1 lap times
12 Jul 2024
BMW M3 CS v Litchfield BMW M2: which makes the better track car?
BMW M3 CS v Litchfield BMW M2 – front
Group tests

BMW M3 CS v Litchfield BMW M2: which makes the better track car?

BMW's latest and greatest M3 takes on Litchfield's 640bhp tuned M2 around Cadwell Park
13 Jul 2024