Bugatti’s high-speed expert
Loris Bicocchi is described as the true Italian talking with a song in his voice. He is also described as Bugatti’s high-speed expert. No wonder there are laugh lines around the corners of his mouth, and the smiling eyes are from a man that loves his work. Bicocchi talks about super and hyper sports cars and especially about Bugatti. You see, Bicocchi has been a test and development driver for decades, setting some of the most remarkable records ever achieved.
Bicocchi’s dream job took a while to attain though he dreamed of sports cars, he could not afford one. Immediately after leaving school in Sant’Agata Bolognese Bicocchi started with Lamborghini, the sports car manufacturer in his immediate vicinity. As a warehouse worker, he was not as close to cars as he wanted to be. Being interested in mechanics, Bicocchi was always curious, always asking questions until he got his answers.
After a year, he started working as a mechanic, and a year after that he was started testing sports cars, starting with the Lamborghini Countach. “That’s how I fulfilled my dream in the early 20’s – and was able to enjoy it for a very long time,” recalls the sixty-one-year-old. He’s been driving, testing, and developing the supercars for 15 years, and for him, this is at the ultimate dream job.
By 1987, the Italian Romano Artioli bought the brand rights of the French manufacturer Bugatti. The plan was to develop the best super sports cars of the modern era that technology could buy. To find qualified personnel easier, Artioli moved his new production facility to the vicinity of Italian supercar brands such as Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini. He convinced experienced employees such as Paolo Stanzani to join him.
Paolo Stanzani was a Lamborghini developer and designer that joined his team. “Paolo called me one day and invited me to a meeting. He told me about the project and asked me directly if I would like to have an exciting job,” remembers Loris Bicocchi. The task: to develop a new absolute supercar with four-wheel drive, V12, and four turbochargers from the ground up, again as a test driver.
Driven by technical innovations, the EB110 GT and EB110 SS were to become the most modern sports cars of the 1990s. “For me, the job was perfect because I wanted to be able to develop myself, drive even faster cars and at no costs let the steering wheel out of my hands,” explains Bicocchi.
Dream Job Test Driver
Bicocchi became a test driver and helped develop the supercars. He gave his expertise on the chassis, tires, engine, braking, aerodynamics, and transmission. “Everything was new with the EB110, there were no reference points, so I was allowed to test a lot,” he explains his task.
The sports car was years ahead of its time, just as Bugatti was ahead of its time. The Bugatti was the first car produced with a carbon monocoque. The V12 had five valves per combustion chamber, four turbochargers, a six-speed transmission, and the power distributes over all four wheels. The V12 GT created 560 horsepower while the SS created up to 610 horsepower and a maximum speed of 8250 revolutions per minute.
Thanks to the newly developed four-wheel-drive, the Bugatti got the power onto the road without any problems and without the horsepower evaporating in the wheel arches. The performance is still, to this day, unbelievable: the EB110 SS reaches from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.26 seconds – a record for production sports cars. The Nürburgring Nordschleife circumnavigated the Bugatti 1991 in just 7 minutes and 44 seconds. “I’m still amazed at how modern the car is today. Direct, clean, light, and darn fast. It is excellent on the road and offers a high grip level,” says Bicocchi.
In the beginning, the ratio between front and the rear axle was 40 to 60, and at the end of the development process, it was 28 to 72. “This gives the car the best performance. That’s why I drove many miles and many hours between 1990 and 1995. How many precisely Bicocchi cannot say more. Every day he sat in a Bugatti – “it was like a never-ending dream,” Bicocchi still says enthusiastically. Among the many prototypes, the EB110 was joined by the EB112 as the planned luxury sedan.
The EB110 as the Best Life Experience
“The EB110 was my best life and work experience, which I still enjoy remembering with affection,” says the Italian. A pure, potent, unbeatable car in its day, the desire of any car quartet. Bicocchi’s most beautiful experiences include; the speed homologation for the EB110 GT with 342 km/h and the world record with natural gas of 344.7 km/h, in July 1994 – exactly 25 years ago. The eclipse of the world record of 351 km/h in a production car was by his colleague Jean-Philippe Vittecoq with an EB110 SS. A little later, however, Bugatti had to declare bankruptcy.
Bicocchi’s days at Bugatti came to an end, but he could not live without the unique cars. He joined Monaco as a test driver for a GT racing team, riding in an EB110 SS at the IMSA Championship in the GTS1 Supreme class and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GT1 class. His knowledge and skills are in high demand in the supercar scene. But his heart clings onto Bugatti.
In 2000, he received a phone call from a friendly engineer working for the resurrected brand in Molsheim, France, asking if he would like to work on a new project. “Like the EB110, everything was new with Veyron; it was extraordinary. There was no predecessor, the performance with more than 1000 hp and the speed range of over 400 km/h were unimaginably vast. In the following years, Loris Bicocchi again drove, tested, and developed the fastest car in the world.
Challenges in the Development of the Veyron
Starting with the second prototype of the Veyron, his work focused on the chassis, suspension, brakes, tires, and steering. “The test work was very challenging because Bugatti pushed back into a speed range where no-one had used a production car before,” he says. To get this incredible power on the ground, while not overburdening the driver and letting the hyperspace drive easily, was one of his tasks. In the final tests for aerodynamics and speed, the engineers worked together with Bicocchi in millimeter increments.
“The angle of attack of the flap, spoiler, or diffuser can change the entire driving behavior with a millimeter difference, especially at high speeds. Therefore, we had to approach the optimal setting via tiny steps. It was the ultimate fine-tuning, “he explains. The Bugatti Chiron1, the Veyron’s successor, was once again demanding Bicocchi’s sensitive expertise. Bicocchi tested the Chiron 1 thousands of kilometers on public roads, on test tracks. He performed heat and cold tests worldwide – and never tired.
Veyron and Chiron1 are both hyper sports cars, but still completely unique vehicles. “Everything was unique on the Veyron, but the Chiron1 is not just an evolution, it’s a new car,” he explains. Because a new design changed the aerodynamics, the chassis, the engine, the steering, just everything.” The hydraulic steering is an electric one that works even better, more direct, and more precise with even better feedback than the Veyron. Also, the four-wheel-drive runs more accurately, gives even better performance on the road, ensuring enhanced traction. “The Chiron1 is even more dynamic, but also safer and more relaxed. We just made the perfect even better,” exclaims Bicocchi.
What still fascinates Bicocchi about the hyper sports car from Molsheim is the drivability along with the incredible power and performance. After decades of work for Bugatti, there are two cars parked in his imaginary dream garage; the EB110 SS, the supercar of the 90s, and the current hyper sports car, the Bugatti Chiron1.
Loris Bicocchi never settles with the results; he wants to continue to develop the cars, to research them, and thereby seeks perfection. His style harmonizes with the style of Ettore Bugatti, who raised the art of engineering to an art form and always strived for perfection. The passion for fast driving and accurate analysis of vehicles maybe why Loris Bicocchi feels so comfortable with Bugatti, and so understood.