Top Gear adored the Bugatti Veyron in the mid to late noughties. The World’s Fastest Car had fantastic content potential, with arguably the most ambitious segment involving a race with a Eurofighter Typhoon.
13 and a half years on, the idea has been revisited with a Chiron and a Dassault Rafale Marine at a naval base in Landivisiau, France. This time, though, Top Gear isn’t involved, nor even mentioned in the press release for its efforts back in 2007. The new showdown is the work of Bugatti itself, and it’s a much more simple straight-line race - the TG one involved both the plane and the car turning around for another go after the initial runway blast.
This worked very well since the Eurofighter needed a lot of room to bank back around at the end of the runway, evening up the finish. Bugatti’s race, on the other hand, goes how you might expect - the Dassault take a little while to get going, giving the Chiron an early lead, before the jet builds up steam and thunders past. We don’t get the clearest look at the battle either, thanks to the choppy editing. Hopefully, a raw video cut will come out at a later date.
The Rafale was doing just over 100mph after 250 metres, 130mph by the 250-metre point, and took off at 450 metres at a speed of around 160mph. It overtook the Chiron shortly after, with the hypercar continuing to just under 220mph before braking, just under a mile from the start line. By that point, the jet, which is capable of hitting 1200mph (Mach 1.6), was long gone.
Bugatti has gone to great lengths in its press material to link the two very different vehicles together, in some ways more tenuous than others. One interesting detail is the Rafale’s brakes are developed by Safran Landing System, formerly Messier-Bugatti, which has links to the original Bugatti automobiles company.
Back to the race itself, it’s worth noting something like this was done decades before either of the Bugatti vs jet showdowns. In 1981, Gilles Villeneuve drove a wing-less Ferrari 126C against a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter of the Italian Force, beating times set by both the jet and other F1 drivers present. In 1989 the aircraft was gifted to Ferrari, painted red and with the late Gilles’ racing number displayed on the side. To this day, it’s proudly parked up at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track.