It’s a question we’ve all figuratively asked but never thought we’d get answered: What would happen if Bugatti made an extreme track-only, lightweight hypercar? Wonder no more. This is the Bugatti Bolide, Molsheim’s 1,825hp, 1,240kg, downforce-tastic love letter to bleeding-edge engineering and organ-bruising lap times. As in 5min 23.1sec around the Nordschleife kinda lap times. Yikes.
That’s not all. In a low-downforce setting, Bugatti claims the Bolide could also do more than 310mph (around 500kph). And thanks to all-wheel drive, it can also shoot from 0-100kph in 2.17sec. So, no matter how you like your fast served, the Bolide will dish it up. We just hope you’re hungry.
It follows on from the current vogue for high-end can’t-drive-on-the-road, can’t-race-in-a-championship hypercar track toys. You know, things like the Aston Martin Valkyrie, the McLaren Senna GTR, the Mercedes-AMG One, and the Ferrari FXXK. Just like them, the Bolide uses the modern race car’s recipe of minimal weight and maximum downforce...but then takes the concept of a track-only hypercar to another level, by pairing those ingredients with an absolute juggernaut of an engine.
Nestled snuggly in the heart of a carbon-fiber monocoque is the same 8.0-liter quad-turbo W16 powerplant we’ve come to know and love from Bugatti. But where it comes with 1,479hp in a standard Chiron and 1,578hp in the production version of the record-setting Chiron Super Sport 300+, the Bolide boots the doors down with 1,825hp when running 110-octane racing fuel.
It’s also got a lot less weight to push around. Thanks to a fighter-jet-inspired design wrapped around a skeletal structure, the thing only weighs 1,240kg—or 100kg lighter than a Porsche Cayman GT4. Some quick maths equates that to an insane power-to-weight ratio of 1,472hp/ton. Which is a truly monstrous figure when you compare it to the then jaw-dropping 644hp/ton that left us speechless with the Veyron SS a decade ago.
We’re told Bolide is a rolling concept to be used for future technology, and that it has taken Bugatti’s engineers just eight months to churn out. Talk about a productive lockdown. Yep, instead of feeling guilty about not doing an online workout, Bugatti’s biggest brains hopped on Zoom and decided to blow the top off blue-sky thinking to try and get into another stratosphere of fast. How? Through the use of exotic materials, no rules, and brain-melting ideas. It looks like they’ve succeeded.
Let’s start with the power. To get that extra oomph over standard, engineers bolted four new turbochargers with new optimized blades to make the engine build more boost pressure and power at higher engine speeds. At 7,000rpm, the W16 now produces 1,825hp and 1,847Nm of torque.
But more power and torque means more energy, and therefore more heat, so the whole oil and cooling systems have also been redesigned—including the introduction of air-to-air intercooling with water pre-cooling, rather than the standard water-to-air. And as there’s a lot more speed to scrub off before going into corners, new hybrid carbon-titanium turbofan radial compressors ventilate and cool Formula 1-style racing brakes finished with ceramic discs and coatings.
But it’s the diet that Bugatti has put its track racer on that really makes you think. Not since Christian Bale in The Machinist has anyone lost so much chunk for a dedicated role. In total, the Bolide has lost 755kg—the same as throwing an original Mini with a set of dumbells in the boot into the bin. Where weight could be saved, it was. So, the driveline was gutted for grams, carbon-fiber bodywork was kept to a minimum, any screw or fastening device is made out of titanium, and where possible, 3D-printed aerospace titanium alloy was used. Just like with the original Type 35, which had a hollow-bored and forged front axle, any weight that could then be scooped out of a component was.
This all adds up. The brake calipers, for example, only weigh 2.4kg each. The front forged magnesium rims weigh 7.4kg. The rears are 8.4kg—meaning even weaklings like us could curl them in the gym. If we went to the gym.
Aerospace alloys that give crazy levels of single-fiber stiffness (350,000 newtons per square millimeter, if you’re counting) are present, but so are traditional elements that have been honed for purpose. Take the rear frame. It’s made of welded high-strength stainless steel...but it’s only 1mm thick. There’s also a morphable skin on the intake scoop on the roof, and depending on the situation, it will deform to optimize airflow.
In case you haven’t already guessed, downforce is also present. The Bolide has more than any other Bugatti that’s come before. At around 320kph, 1,800kg of force is being sat on the rear wing and 800kg at the front. The suspension is rated to take 3.5 tons of force—or nearly two Chirons.
If that’s not enough to keep you planted to the tarmac, there’s also a set of sticky Michelin racing slicks. They’re thicc boys, too—340mm on the front axle and 400mm on the rear. Just for context, a boggo Chiron runs 285mm at the front and 355mm at the rear. With all this grip, we’re told you can expect up to 2.8g. Or what people in LA call a ‘cheap facelift.’
And check out the way it looks! It’s like a cosmic LMP1 car with all that wild, minimalist bare carbon bodywork and extrusions that help deflect air to the right places to keep things cool and plunge the Bolide into the ground. Right at the front, you’ve got the iconic horseshoe grille—making this instantly recognizable as a Bugatti. But from there back, everything is taut and swept-back as holes punctuate all parts of the car. Cutting into the bodywork inboard of the front wheels to release the pressure, the holes become a framework to see the gorgeous front double-wishbone pushrod suspension and horizontal dampers.
Hopping over the snorkel, you’re greeted by a dorsal fin to stabilize the car at high speed. It then spreads into an outrageous full-width rear wing assembly. Looking at it from dead behind is a menacing prospect—a giant ‘X’ signature highlighted by LEDs that draw your attention to four double-stacked exhausts and a whopper of a blue-tipped diffuser.
As you may have noticed, the X shape is used relentlessly throughout the design. This isn’t a happy accident, but rather a nod to the Bell X-1 flown in 1947 by Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier. The good thing about the X shape, though, is that it allows room for more holiness, so you can not only see the rear suspension, but also to act as a gully to channel air efficiently, not too dissimilar from the Lotus Evija.
With the Bolide standing only 995mm tall (the same height as an original Bugatti Type 35), you have to slot yourself in through gullwing doors before dropping down into the arse-down-feet-up racing driving position with the pedals moving toward or away from you. Inside, there’s just enough room for you and someone to scare senseless. It may not be as luxurious as a standard Chiron, but decked out in alcantara and fitted with a dashboard and door pulls, it’s the Ritz in comparison to other race cars.
Safe too, with all the features the FIA likes to see. You’ve got HANS device compatibility, an automatic fire extinguishing system, a towing device, pressure refueling with fuel bladder, central locks for the wheels, lightweight polycarbonate windows, a six-point harness system, and air jacks for a quick tire change.
The stats that Bugatti claimd for the Bolide are wild in anyone’s books. A 0-500kph-0 time of 33.62sec. A Nordschliefe lap just off the Porsche 919 Evo’s record, and a Le Mans lap time of 3min 7.1sec—good enough for it to snatch pole at this year’s race by 8sec.
Obviously, these times are all currently simulated, and whether we’ll ever actually witness the camouflaged Bolide that’s been testing at Paul Ricard driven in anger remains to be seen. But the carmaker has gone and answered the question we’ve all figuratively asked, but never thought we’d get answered: What would happen if Bugatti made an extreme track-only, lightweight hypercar? Now we know.
But here’s another question: What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.