“I drove the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse.”
There, I said it. And I’m going to keep saying it, even when I’m rocking on the porch at the old folks home. It’s like saying, “I had lunch with Paul McCartney.” There’s no possible response other than, “You WHAAAAT?”
Why are the Veyron and its convertible sibling, the Vitesse, so special? First, there’s the unicornlike rarity: Only 450 Veyrons exist on Earth and of those, only 150 are the Vitesse drop-tops. And since production has ceased, there will be no more.
Then there’s the price: At around $2.3 million (give or take a few hundred grand for options), the Vitesse is the world’s most expensive convertible sports car. And with a massive output of 1,200 horsepower, it’s also certified as the planet’s fastest.
There’s also the oh-so advanced and gigantic 8.0-liter engine with 16 cylinders in a banked “W” configuration, four turbochargers, four water pumps and 10 radiators. TEN. Everything under that gorgeous, otherworldly carbon-fiber skin is similarly over-engineered except for the seat adjustments: manual levers. Gotta love that.
All this is to say that the Vitesse isn’t something you see every day, much less get a chance to drive. But I did. Did I mention that?
Understandably, Bugatti didn’t just hand me the keys and jauntily wave toodle-oo. Butch Leitzinger, the company’s factory pilot, was there to coach me on taming the beast. With two class wins at Le Mans and gobs of other honors (Google him, he’s awesome), he’s a steely-eyed yet genial racing professional straight out of central casting who listened good-naturedly as I babbled about our — well, my — impending adventure.
“Let’s get somewhere where you can really stretch it out,” he said, easing us into a beautiful Texas spring morning on Dallas’ absolutely horrid roads. We tooled merrily along, the Vitesse tight but not overly stiff, the seats comfy but not squishy, the interior console and dash blessedly free of TV sets and complicated buttons and dials. Hey, this is a most civilized vehicle, one that can be driven reasonably and contentedly all day long.
But then Butch found a patch of open road (I’m not saying where), noted that we were cruising at 50 mph and casually asked if I was ready. I gulped and said yes, and he put the hammer down.
“Accelerate” is such an inadequate word for what happened next.
The back end scrunched down, not so much a mechanical transfer of torque as a primordial beast’s instinctive muscular squat before lunging on unsuspecting prey. All four turbos shrieked ear-splittingly loud behind our heads, gulping in massive torrents of air. And the speed, OMG.
“Vitesse” is a nice way of saying, “Here, let’s rearrange your internal organs.” I’ve gone fast before — Ferrari and Lamborghini and McLaren fast — but nothing like this. This thing is wickedly, insanely, volcanically, absurdly, blindingly, unapologetically crazy-fast.
Even if we were going 130, which I’m not saying we were (or weren’t), the Vitesse has a top speed of nearly 260, which means we were only halfway there. Yet, with all that blistering performance and mountainous power reserve, the car felt confident and wholly manageable.
Butch applied the race-tuned ceramic brakes for a smooth, calm stop, turned to me and said, “Your turn.”
If being driven in a Vitesse by a pro like Butch is fun — and oh, boy, is it — driving it is even better. He let me stomp on it. Twice. After the first time, he said, “You didn’t let up, that’s good; most people can’t take it. Do it again. If you want, of course.”
After it was all over and we were safely back in our solar system, I asked wonderingly, “You get to do this all the time?”
He laughed. “Doesn’t seem fair, does it?”
In his hands, it seems totally fair. In my hands, it’s a rare privilege and an honor I’ll never forget.
And when I meet McCartney for lunch and we debate exotic supercars, I’ll just say, “I drove the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse,” and leave him sputtering.
Hey, why couldn’t this dream come true, too?
The story behind this month’s Road Raves
Michael is a brave-hearted 7-year-old San Antonio boy battling leukemia. He loves sports cars — the more exotic, the better. His dream? Ride in a Bugatti Veyron Vitesse. Thanks to Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas and an eager leadership team at Bugatti, his wish came true as he and Bugatti factory pilot Butch Leitzinger zoomed around Dallas in the super-rare supercar.
The Bugatti folks kindly asked
Indulge if we wanted to swing by a
day later for a ride and a chance behind the wheel, too. We thought they were kidding. They weren’t, and thus, our story.
“It was so nice to meet Michael and his family,” Butch says. “He is such a lovely boy, and his smile lit up the room. During the drive, he seemed to be soaking up the experience, so I
tried not to talk too much and just let him enjoy the ride. I was also aware that Michael’s parents had only just met me, and then I zoomed off with their son in the world’s fastest car, so
I was taking extra care to make sure that nothing would happen to betray their trust!
“Above all, it was personally
very fulfilling to be able to have a part in making such a brave boy’s wish come true.”
— Brian Melton