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Bugatti: 110 years of a French-made car

MONACO

The arrival of Bugatti in Place du Casino c. BugattiLast year, Monaco was the first destination for the anniversary road trip to celebrate 110 years of Bugatti vehicles. Looking back on a time when the Principality was buzzing with people and events, we bring you the story of exotic cars, fancy hotels and meeting Stephan Winkelmann, the President of Bugatti, the fastest and most expensive (street) car in the world.

Monaco is spoiled for choice when it comes to exotic and ‘hyper’ cars, as they are seen around every corner on the daily. However, on 2 September 2019, the principality had never experienced such a sight as when 23 Bugattis arrived in Place du Casino at 5:30 pm. The more Bugattis that arrived, the more crowds gathered to point and take selfies. 

To celebrate its 110th anniversary, Bugatti invited owners around the world to partake in a ‘Grand Tour’ departing from Milan, the birthplace of Ettore Bugatti and driving all the way to their headquarters at Château St Jean in Molsheim, Alsace. According to Stephan Winkelmann, the president of Bugatti (who pulled up in the #1 anniversary edition Chiron), it is the first time so many contemporary Bugattis have been in one place at the same time.

The 110 Anniversary roadtrip c. BugattiThe route covered a lot of territory but was broken up with stops in some of the loveliest places along the route. Monte-Carlo was the first stop, with an overnight at the Hotel de Paris, who welcomed the drivers with trays of sparkling water and orange juice. The next morning, the group departed for Aix-en-Provence where they passed the night at Château Lacoste.

It was a record-breaking day for Bugatti, not merely for the crowd of multi-million-euro cars, but also for the news of breaking the 300 mph record for street production cars. Bugatti test driver, Andy Wallace was alone on the Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany when he took a Bugatti Chiron to 304.773 mph (490.484 km/h), making the Bugatti the fastest car on the market.

Riviera Insider sat down with Stephan Winkelmann inside the Hotel de Paris to discuss the past, the future and the record. He acknowledged the bragging rights of being the fastest, but he was clear that Bugatti is now focused on new projects.  When asked about whether Bugatti will now try to break the 500 km/h mark, he smiled but reiterated that Bugatti prefers to invest in new models and new technology. Perhaps an electric Bugatti? Not likely in the near future, but Mr Winkelmann does admit that is the future of vehicles.  

One thing is for sure, no one will be a challenge to their W16 1500 Hp engine for a while to come.

For now, Bugatti is focusing on brand recognition, particularly emphasising a French identity of a car often mistaken for another Italian supercar. What is not well-known outside car enthusiasts is that Bugatti has always been based in Molsheim, France (aside from a brief take-over by Lamborghini in the 1990s). Although born in Milan, Ettore Bugatti, the son of a renowned Art Deco designer, grew up in Molsheim, opening the first factory in 1909 to produce cars and airplane engines. Always being the fastest, Bugatti grew to fame with their Type 35 race car, winning 2,000 races in ten years, including the 24 hours at Le Mans and the Targa Florio. In fact, the winning car of the very first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929 was a T35B Bugatti.

The 110 ANS Anniversary edition Chiron c. BugattiClearly, there is no doubt to Bugatti’s absolute dominance on being the fastest. However, Mr Winkelmann emphasises that it is the high level of comfort and luxury that makes Bugatti special. After taking the reins at the company, he was constantly asked where in Italy the factory was. It was immediately clear to him that his first order of business was to focus the message of the brand as a French company. He told RI: “The capability of the French to have a luxury that is always over the top is unique and we have the opportunity to position our brand as the only luxury car manufacturer that is French.”

This was the motivation behind the anniversary edition Chiron. To emphasise its French identity, the '110 ans' model is made with the two shades of French blue for their signature two-tone exterior, repeated in the finely-stitched leather seats bearing the ‘110 ans’ emblem, and the rear wing that pops out when the driver reaches serious speed features the ‘trois couleurs’ of the French flag. “I hope that in four to five years this will be settled, but for now, this is the right message.”

Bugatti has several events planned for the remainder of the year, especially at their Château St Jean HQ in Molsheim. But we’ll keep an eye out for some of these new designs Mr Winkelmann hinted at.

-NR