The pre-production car was doing nearly 400 kph at the Nardo track when a tire blew up.
Note: Hit the “CC” icon for the English subtitle.
We have stumbled upon a video from several months ago detailing an incident that took place during the development of the mighty Veyron. The year was 2002 or 2003 on a Sunday morning and Bugatti was putting a pre-production version of its W16 monster through its paces at the Nardo high-speed test track owned by Porsche. Behind the wheel of the car was the company’s test driver Loris Bicocchi, an ex-Lamborghini technician and test driver. As a side note, he was also involved in the development of the Veyron’s predecessor, the EB110.
During one of the first tests conducted with the Veyron, back when the hypercar was only a “support for the engine and gearbox,” something went terribly wrong. Bicocchi was tasked to do two laps of the circuit in Italy at full throttle when the front-right tire blew up towards the end of the run. At that time, the test vehicle was traveling at speeds of close to 400 kph (248 mph). It took the fender with it and then the front hood smashed the windshield, shattering it into pieces.
As “luck” would have it, the Veyron’s right-rear tire exploded too after the car collided with the nearby guardrail, which also heavily damaged the rear suspension. Because of the powerful contact, Bicocchi hit the side window, but obviously he had his helmet on, which may have smashed the glass.
The ordeal was far from being over as because of the increased pressure inside the cabin, Bugatti’s test driver suffered a trauma and temporarily wasn’t able to see anything. As if this wasn’t bad enough, smoke then started to enter the cabin from a hole in the back, which had been made to connect the engine to the computers inside through a plethora of wires. In addition, the engine’s oil as well as the gearbox’s caught fire, so it’s safe to say it was a total nightmare.
He applied the brakes of the loose Veyron, but the car just wouldn’t stop because something went wrong with the braking system following the crash. With no brakes and zero visibility, Bicocchi decided to steer the car in order to touch the guardrail to try and slow it down. Thankfully, his split-second decision proved to be a stroke of genius as the Veyron eventually came to a full stop. Aftermath? 1.8 kilometers (5,905 feet) worth of damaged guardrail. The folks running the Nardo Technical Center sent him an invoice to pay for the damages, but in the end, Bugatti took care of the bill.
Getting out of the obliterated Veyron – which had an aluminum body at that time - wasn’t easy as the door got stuck, but Bicocchi kicked it a few times and eventually escaped from the wreckage. Despite crashing at roughly 248 mph, the car’s frame proved its sturdiness as it managed to withstand multiple shocks.
Even though the incident was utterly horrifying, Bicocchi got back in the game and went on to serve as a test driver for the Veyron’s successor, the Chiron.