We join our hero as he cruised northward on the Italian E45 Autostrada last week, from Imola, toward Bologna. That's when Erico Hessel spotted the trio of matte-black flying saucers running nose-to-tail in the center lane, with vans running ahead and behind to keep other drivers at bay.
Three Bugatti Chiron test mules were cruising in plain view, on a public highway, though they were obviously painted to obscure the brand's distinctive characteristics. Caught by surprise, Hessel wasn't immediately certain what kind of cars these were, but a closer examination confirmed their Bugatti lineage, he said.
As a professional photographer, Hessel is a little disappointed by the quality of the photo he shot, but under the conditions, it is understandable. "It was a little rainy and it is hard to get a photo at 100 mph," he apologized. "I was lucky to get that one."
Led and flanked by the vans, the Chirons weren't straining their top speeds, which should exceed that of the 267.8-mph Veyron Super Sport that the Chiron will replace. Still, even at a jog, the cars made a statement, Hessel reported. "The sound of the car was incredible even at low revs," he said.
It was difficult to linger alongside in the passing lane because of the length of the convoy. "The formation was so you couldn’t get in between them," Hessel explained. " If you had to pass, you had to pass them all because they were really close."
Rumors put the anticipated numbers on the Chiron at $2.5 million and 1,500 horsepower, which should let it open a small performance gap over the 1,200-hp Veyron Super Sport. And of course, it sheer audacity will ensure a slot in Floyd Mayweather's garage alongside his most recent Veyron purchase.
Even with Bugatti's unmistakable styling, it turns out to be hard to identify matte black cars traveling at triple-digit speeds, Hessel discovered. "It was hard to connect the dots, so after that I looked it up and when I saw the blue car from Frankfurt, and the similarities with the horseshoe grille, I put it together."
That blue car was the Bugatti Vision Grand Toursimo Concept, which gave us a tantalizing preview of the production Chiron at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
Photos by Erico Hessel