Raphanel acknowledges that setting his record was considerably less fraught but admits to having had worries about tyre life. He explains: “They had tested them on a bench machine at 435kph (270.2mph), because that’s all the machine could do: 435kph and a 20-second cycle. They said after six cycles, the tyres will probably explode, which of course means two minutes. But then when I broke the record, I noticed that the tyres were the same as I had used the day before; they said ‘you’re still in the window’. All I could do was hope: it’s not a window you want to fall out of.”
Bugatti says that it won’t defend its title, but if the company were to change its mind, would either of its record-setters be tempted to try again if Winkelmann phoned to offer them another go?
“‘Hello? Hello? Stephan? It’s a bad line, I can’t hear you,’” jokes Raphanel. “Personally, I was very happy to do this, to be part of history – but in my case, one time was enough. We did the records to show that Bugattis are the best cars in the world, not because we’re the best drivers.”
“When you’re a racing driver, if somebody asks you a question like that, you’ll always put on this persona of everything being good and say ‘bring it on’,” adds Wallace. “It’s easy to stand here knowing that we’re not going to do it and say ‘of course I would’. But in reality, it’s not just a straight yes: I would seriously have to think about it. It’s not just a walk in the park.”
The 10 fastest production cars (sort of)
While overall speed records are recorded and verified by the FIA, the production car title has always been subject to looser criteria and, like boxing, runs under what are effectively a variety of codes and self-appointed sanctioning bodies.
The big ideological division is now one that dates to the very beginning of record-setting: whether a car needs to run a course in two directions for an average time. Although Pierre-Henri Raphanel’s Bugatti Veyron Super Sport record was run in two directions at Ehra-Lessien, Volkswagen has since stopped these, meaning that two-way runs can only take place on either lesser tracks or public roads. Guinness World Records recognised Raphanel’s run as a record but not Andy Wallace’s later effort; instead, the Chiron’s time was validated by Germany’s TUV Technical Inspection Association.