John Morrison’s HARDDRIVERS….

SCRAPBOOK

WELCOME to this, my extreme auto-enthusiast’s blog site …

“John, there’s half a chance we get at a new franchise for the Group. It’s a bit specialist; could be right up your street though. If you’re up to take a look, I’ll pass your name to the MD. Go & take stock and let me know what you think … I mean don’t waste your time but you know … Thanks, cheers.” Nick Lancaster MD Jack Barclay Limited, Lancaster Group to me, late 2004.

Molsheim, the home of Bugatti since 1905 is nearby Strasbourg and nearer still to the airport. I kept abreast of what was going on with Bugatti and it did sound a mess. Their first supercar was well delayed which sounded like serious boardroom shenanigans rather than technical problems. The technicals were pretty hefty of course, because so few had gone quite so powerful & sophisticated or expensive. Politics at VAG were playing ‘pass the baby’, the last one left holding the bill when the marketing music stopped, likely to be downed for careless use of group funds.

As far as I understood, the new Veyron named after their last Le Mans victor Pierre Veyron, was very much the project of VAG Group Chairman of the Supervisory Board Ferdinand Piech (rather than the car companies Board). Lots of stories running around that Piech had sketched out the Veyron to a few of his best engineers – this engine, this configuration, transmission, shape, horsepower, speed … & please carry on.

A few of the Group big guns were obviously in turmoil but this was very much in the Piech manner. He was born grandson to Dr Ferdinand Porsche’s sister Louise. If you’ve not kept up with the life & career of Dr Ferdinand Piech, then take a moment to familiarise yourself. Little question in my mind that he was one of the most outstanding personalities of his era; definitely my clear & first auto executive hero, both as an engineer and business architect for the flying VAG Group over a number of years.

All that aside, two significant cars were his brainchildren in my lifetime. Piech was the father of the 1969 Porsche 917, the 245 mph race car which put Porsche well & truly on the high performance map; the production of 25 identical 4.5 litre flat 12 race cars was something he pinned his & Porsche’s entire future upon. His second monumental win, was the all-wheel drive (as opposed to 4 wheel drive) Audi Quattro, again put the Audi company on the auto world, winning 7 times the World Rally Championship. This guy as you can see understood power, learnt aerodynamics (in the end) and understood the transmission of high power with all their associated by products. I also noted that he was absolutely in favour of inter company, inter engineer rivalries in order to squeeze the best solutions in order to make ‘the fastest’. So the fabulous 917 had to earn it’s spurs over the successful predecessor the lovely Porsche 908 for example to the point where at the difficult Nurburgring and Sicily’s Targa, the nimbler 908 was retained. With complete success.

25 identical
The FIA delegation inspecting …

So, a one thousand brake road legal supercar capable of 250 mph was a complete logical development … so please now get on with it. It is probably no coincidence that his grandfather had developed a famous supercharged 16-cylinder engine for the Auto Union racing cars in the 1930s. The third special car he was personally responsible for was the VW Phaeton which was famous for being an absolute masterpiece of auto engineering, yet was a complete sales flop … such was the power of brand, that any car with the VW on the grill could never be an upmarket aspirational purchase, no matter how good. It would always be, just a VW …

So, the other stroke of genius I spotted early on in my time with Porsche, was almost artistic in it’s conception. Now, we all take as pride of the German motor business as being Mercedes Benz. Over the years they have proved to be top of table of World motor manufacturers time & time again. However selling against them with other prestige lines, I found a weakness in that their smaller car offering shared many of the same features as their top line product, albeit made by the one huge faultless company. So that if you did splash out on Merc’s very expensive very finest, some of the features were not quite so exclusive. Now, so here was Piech with his three backbone lines of Audi, VW & later Porsche, all perfectly adequate & profitable but try as they might, they could make little in road into the ultimate line of top line marques. BMW had the same problem, so went and bought Rolls Royce …

What I saw was that Piech purchased his way around the world with good but not brilliant brands. Like Skoda, like Seat and the like. To get into the jazzy big league, he managed to get hold of Lamborghini, then Bentley and finally Bugatti. The other vital sideline victory of this international strategy was that in each country he played this ace, the ensconced vote-conscious government just could not do enough to ensure ‘their’ brands success aside the dominant German industry, with all sorts of sweeteners and below the line advantages. But at the centre of it all, was Wolfsburg, a north German city virtually given over to the VAG group and it’s motorcars. It was also where as much commonality of power units & like type hardware, an absolute bank of auto technologies was situated, so that if someone at Seat wanted to outshine the VW Golf R, or Skoda wanted a bigger platform to capture a taxi market, Wolfsburg could provide any solution (at a price no doubt).

Having tackled most of my direct lovely Bugatti bosses, it was apparent to me however, that Dr Piech did have an extreme soft spot for the Bugatti marque – perhaps he saw a kindred spirit in Ettore, not just producing high performance but also in an exquisite manner … . They did conceed that there were only two models on display in his office – and they were both Bugattis. Perhaps because Ettore was as much an artist as he was engineer. My feeling is that Ferdinand felt the same way about his auto creativity. And both for their time were dangerously politic, single minded and crafts people by heart.

I also became aware that the last ‘Mrs Piech’ was a Bugatti Veyron owner – Veyron ‘Number One’ in fact.

Mrs Piech
That’s Mrs Piech’s Veyron No 1, first in line.
The Headline shot of the Veyron in the wet at Goodwood was my first chance to experience the benefit from the all wheel drive system; so effective. this shot cruising back down again. A dull day weather wise. …


fanchracing

Back in December went to Le Mans with the Veyron to visit some friends.

It was raining like hell, and there was my mate @emmanuel.collard at the wheel, well over the speed limit and me thinking about the 365 wide rear tyres, yes you read that right, 365!!!!

Thankfully they’re pretty brilliant PAX Michelin and I was actually stunned by how stable the Bug was, there’s no way we could have driven that fast with the Centodieci on Cup 2 let alone the Pur Sport on Cup 2R.

Now here’s the interesting bit, remember when I wrote that the Veyron was a better GT car than the Chiron Pur Sport, well it’s also a better GT car the Centodieci.

Ok first there’s no retrovision in the Cento, zero and when you drive a car that big, but also with very edgy side lines, you have no idea what goes on behind you, it’s an issue, in town and on the road.

The Veyron is usefully smaller than the Chiron but what trumps it is the sublime steering. Pure, hydraulic and perfect weight.

In the Chiron it’s electric and the calibration is ok in the Pur Sport but a bit numb on the Cento, the Veyron’s setup inspires more confidence to be honest.

The problem is that the Pur Sport can do 90% of what the Cento does but once you send it, the Cento is not half the car the Pur Sport is.

Remember the Cento is a Divo with 100hp more but without the air brake, it’s supposed to sit between the Sport and the Pur Sport but as far as I’m concerned it’s way too soft.

And then there’s the final blow: Build quality. Every time I climb in the Veyron, I’m in a museum.

Everything is just unbelievably well put together with the finest materials, I’ve used both quite a lot now and dare I say, it makes the Chiron look and feel…. Ordinary.

Look at that turn signal stalk, milled from a solid piece of pure aluminium, unreal! And with the most satisfying haptic feedback.

You read it here first, the Bugatti Veyron, the only car in the world that releases endorphine when you signal left or right.😜😜😜

2d

They didn’t leave it there of course – the SuperSport came next …