After Wolfgang Dürheimer’s son showed his dad the YouTube video of John Hennessey’s Venom GT running 270.49 mph one way at Kennedy Space Center, the Bugatti boss reached out to the Texas tuner during 2014 Pebble Beach car week. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Hennessey recalls, “but he was just the coolest guy. I thought I was just talking to another car guy from Texas.”
And so began an unusual rivalry. “I give Bugatti a lot of credit for setting such a high bar so long ago,” says Hennessey, who says the Veyron performance benchmark proved an inspiration.
“I hope he makes his 270 mph in both directions pretty soon so he can enjoy being the fastest,” Dürheimer says with a smile before pausing to deliver the kicker. “For three months.”
That’s a challenge John Hennessey is looking forward to. “It’s a very cool validation for our little company,” he says. “We look forward to them beating our number. It gives us something to go out and try and leapfrog at one point.”
After sharing what we know about the Chiron with Hennessey, what does he think the new benchmark will be? “They are the ultimate sandbaggers,” he says of the claimed 0-60 time. “Of course it depends on the tire, and it depends on the surface, but I’ll be disappointed if the new Bug doesn’t go a 1.9.” And top speed? “I’m guessing it goes way past 270 mph, maybe pushing 280.”
Given more road than the 3.4-mile runway used for the record run at Kennedy Space Center, Hennessey believes his Venom GT could still challenge the Chiron for top speed honors. He says the Venom GT accelerated from 260 mph to 270 mph in 11 seconds, and even assuming the rate of acceleration tapered off 1 mph every 2 seconds, he calculates that if he had the chance to run it at Ehra-Lessien, coming off the banking and onto the track’s 5.4-mile-long straight at 150 mph like Bugatti test drivers do, it could reach 275 or even 277 mph.
“I asked Wolfgang whether I could bring a car over and line it up with a Bugatti,” Hennessey smiles. “He didn’t say yes. But he didn’t say no.”
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