A former Motoring Editor at the Telegraph, Erin Baker combines a bike licence and race licence with a love of high-speed cars and penchant for embarrassingly low-speed crashes. Now she has two sons, she’s largely put her leathers to one side, preferring the cut and thrust of automotive industry debates and wondering which cars have Isofix…
Bugatti’s Chiron, unveiled earlier this month in Geneva, begs the perennial question: why? Why is anyone still building road cars with over 1,000bhp? How can the industry be simultaneously pouring money into hybrid, electric and fuel-cell technology and also massively over-engineered engines that don’t touch 10mpg?
There’s no “why?” over the price-tag, incidentally; a customer buying a car for £1.9m is, in that delightful phrase, “Beyond Economics”, and there are plenty about. The hunting ground for the hyper-rich might have moved largely away from Europe to the Middle East and China, but it’s fully in play. One only has to tour the bespoke areas of any supercar-manufacturer factory floor these days to see the million-pound customisation programmes in progress; the rich are still getting richer.
But back to the performance envelope, which is being breached with each motor show that comes and goes. Geneva had the Chiron (1,479bhp), the Koenigsegg Regera (ditto, weirdly), Rimac Concept One (1,073bhp), Techrules TREV (1,030bhp) and Lamborghini Cenentario (a tame 759bhp). There was even talk from Arash of its hybrid version of the AF10 producing an inconceivable 2,080bhp.
What on earth is the point, even in concept form?
It’s this: the dream. The dream of man challenging velocity, gambling with nature, taking on physics. It’s about emotion, the romance, even, of finding a road to the horizon untrod by others; it’s about design and engineering innovation; it’s ultimately about problem-solving. A hypercar built is 1,000 Rubik’s Cubes done blindfolded, simultaneously, in record time, waved triumphantly in the air.
And yes, a bit like Formula One, clever bits of tech developed for a hypercar might filter down to your family hatchback somewhere down the line, which is nice, but these stellar transports of delight are about so much more than existing as mobile Research and Development labs.
They are the ultimate expression of success. Not financial; intellectual. A car capable of producing 1,000 horsepower, is a machine packed with ambition, passion and restless curiosity. It gives shape to the “What if we…” intention.
What if we added more downforce here? What if we used this composite for the body? What if we introduced this coating? You’ve got to banish the fear of failure to produce massively fast, massively expensive cars. You’ve got to set yourself up to fail fast, learn quickly and move straight on.
Supercars should be taken on roadshows to schools, to show pupils exactly why they must have a hunger for learning, and why maths, chemistry and physics are sexy subjects. The tangible result is forged in a 1,000bhp car. From a bunsen burner to a Bugatti in about 20 years of learning. Doesn’t seem a bad deal to me.
Images courtesy of Bugatti and Tom Shaxson