HomeThe MarketCan a pre-production prototype claim a production-car speed record?

Can a pre-production prototype claim a production-car speed record?


Bugatti is claiming that one of its Chiron supercars has become the first production car to exceed the 300 mph mark, but at the same time the automaker admits that the car isn’t really a production example but a pre-production prototype.

So should we consider this to be the record-breaker or not?

Obviously, Bugatti thinks we should.

Bugatti Chiron
Andy Wallace drives a pre-production prototype Bugatti Chiron through the 300 mph barrier at the VW test track in Germany | Bugatti photos

“World record!” it proclaims in its announcement of its accomplishment in August. “Bugatti is the first manufacturer to break the 300-mile-an-hour barrier. On a test track in Germany, a near production prototype derivative of the hyper sports car Chiron1 surpassed the magic limit with a speed of 304.773 mph (490.484 km/h). 

“What a record! We’re overjoyed to be the first manufacturer ever to have achieved a speed of more than 300 miles per hour. It’s a milestone for eternity,” said Stephan Winkelmann, Bugatti’s president. 

“I would like to thank the whole team and driver Andy Wallace for this outstanding performance.”

Bugatti says Germany’s TÜV, the agency that verifies various vehicle specifications, has certified the speed, which was set on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien high-speed oval track in Lower Saxony.  The track has an 8.8-kilometer straightaway.

Bugatti Chiron
The official top speed for the run was 304.773 mph

“An incredible speed,” Wallace said. “It’s inconceivable that a car would be capable of this. But the Chiron was well prepared and I felt very safe – even in these high speed ranges.”

Wallace worked up toward the barrier-breaking speed in 50 km/h increments, Bugatti said.

“Even at the first attempt I felt this would work,” Wallace said. “The Chiron ran perfectly and the track and weather conditions were ideal. The whole team did a fantastic job.”

Wallace also was the driver in 1998 when the McLaren F1 set a record of 243 mph (391 km/h) on the same track. 

“With this new world record, Bugatti will also withdraw from the competition to produce the fastest serial production cars,” the company said. 

“We have shown several times that we build the fastest cars in the world. In future we will focus on other areas,” added Winkelmann, who didn’t specify those “other areas.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. VW seem to have realised what adults know already: pursuit of outright speed records is a futile waste of time and money. Even on Germany’s few remaining unrestricted autobahnen, that sort of speed is impossible to get near – for a responsible adult, anyway.
    It’s just bragging rights.
    I have an ’08 Mustang V8 that makes 224kw. In the real world that’s plenty.
    I also have a Holden SSV Redline (from the last year of Australian production) which makes 304kw from its (standard production) LS3 Corvette motor. On the open road it really doesn’t feel any different from the Mustang though, on paper, the Holden makes it look a bit gay.
    My point is that a standard V8 Mustang makes enough power for anything you might want to do in the real world so why spend any extra money for a Shelby, Saleen or Rousch? – or indeed, anything else that goes faster still?
    It’s just bragging rights – and my Mustang’s a red convertible. I have to beat the women off with a stick.


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