The Bugatti Divo takes on the Targa Florio circuit – Challenges

It has been almost thirty years since the presentation of the EB110 kicked off Bugatti's rebirth. Then the Veyron, the first model designed under the aegis of the Volkswagen Group, redefined the standard in the supercar category with its extravagant technical sheet. We could estimate that the Chiron, its replacement launched in 2016, represents the third generation of sports cars of the brand. It is certainly true, but the Divo surely takes a step forward in the modern history of Bugatti. A new course, synonymous with even more exclusivity.

The launch of the Divo project corresponds to the arrival of Stephan Winkelmann at the head of Bugatti. He wanted to apply the recipe he initiated at Lamborghini with the Reventón and which worked so well: to offer very limited series, with a special body but incorporating a maximum of elements common to the other models of the brand (read our article on Ferrari, Bugatti and Lamborghini limited series). To afford one of these very rare models, you have to show your praise, be a loyal customer.

A tribute to the Targa Florio, the legendary Sicilian race

The Veyron and Chiron evoke Bugatti's past, taking the names of drivers who made the brand's golden age. The newcomer is no exception to the rule, since she pays homage to Albert Divo, a WWI flying ace, became a Bugatti factory pilot in 1928 after racing for Sunbeam, Talbot-Darracq and Delage. From his first year of contract, he wins the Targa Florio, a feat repeated the following year, ending an unbroken streak of five for Molsheim in Sicily.

That’s why it’s in Sicily that Bugatti invited us to try the Divo, which the first deliveries have just started, exactly two years after the car was presented at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Unfortunately, it will be impossible for us to completely follow in the footsteps of the Type 35 which distinguished itself: the roads, still open to traffic, are today in too bad condition for a car with such reduced ground clearance to be able to circulate there. It must be said that their maintenance is the responsibility of the provinces … Administrative division which has not existed for a few years! So much so that no one today really knows who should be responsible for repairing the roads in Sicily.

The Bugatti Divo takes on the Targa Florio circuit - The Bugatti Divo takes on the Targa Florio circuit - Challenges

“In the past, the roads were much better paved. Because the passage of the Targa Florio each year, with prototypes of more than 400 hp, required regular maintenance,” explains Giuseppe Vitale. This Palermo cardiologist is living proof that the memory of the Targa Florio is still alive in Sicily. In his spare time, he produces models of extreme precision reproducing the most famous cars of this legendary race. One of his friends, Enzo Manzo, set up the Targapedia site, which brings together an incredible number of photos from all editions. "This site made it possible to make discoveries, to update never-before-seen photos. There was real competition from people who had hitherto jealously hidden their treasures," continues Giuseppe Vitale.

A museum for the Targa Florio

We arrive in Collesano, the village where the most legendary hairpin of the circuit is located, to visit the museum dedicated to Targa Florio. Michele Gargano, the curator, awaits us with undisguised impatience to show the collection. At the entrance, a painted ceramic plaque represents his father Giacinto, founder of the museum, shaking hands with Enzo Ferrari… A scene which only exists in the imagination of the family and which adds to the folklore of the place . But, inside, the objects are authentic. There are real Targa Florio, the trophy offered to the winner: it is a plaque ("targa" in Italian), in gold and engraved by Lalique in the early years. This was personally delivered by Vincenzo Florio, the wealthy entrepreneur who initiated the race in 1906. Being also a shipowner, it was he who supplied the boats, leaving from Marseille, so that all the competitors could reach the port. from Palermo.

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There are many treasures in this museum: posters, photos, wetsuits… and shoes. Because Ciccio, based in Cefalu, has long been a maestro for fitting pilots. There are pairs that belonged to Vic Elford and Clay Regazzoni, coming from a time when the Targa Florio had an international impact, the scene of a showdown between Porsche, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. The last edition counting for the international brands championship dates back to 1973, before its final stop in 1977, for safety reasons.

The Bugatti Divo brings back memories in Collesano

During our visit, the Bugatti teams arrived in the center of Collesano, where the landing of the Divo and the Type 35 did not fail to create a crowd. Andy Wallace, official Bugatti driver with a long track record, is present. An old man approaches him, telling him in Italian that he looks exactly like Stirling Moss, whom he remembers fondly. Andy Wallace seems delighted with this emotional compliment.

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Michele Gargano, curator of the Targa Florio museum

The contrast is impressive between the frail Type 35 and the Divo which presents itself as its descendant. The latter is flat, extremely wide (2.02 m for 1.21 m high and 4.64 m long). She almost looks like a stealth craft in this delivered in visible carbon, covered with a varnish that tints the reflections of dark blue. Each carbon fiber is meticulously oriented by hand so that the alignment is identical throughout the body. An option priced at around € 300,000… Which looks like a trifle on a car sold for € 5,000,000 tax-free, making it the most expensive car in the world currently in production. Obviously, each of the 40 units, sold even before presentation to the public, is configured according to the buyer's wishes (read our article on the configuration of the Bugatti Divo).

A very specific focus

If it is indeed this body, very different from the Chiron, which makes the salt of the Divo, it would be reductive to consider it, precisely, as a simple Chiron rearranged. If Bugatti gave it the name of Divo, it is because it must be able to tackle the extremely winding track of the Madonie circuit, theater of the Targa Florio. As well, the running gear settings have been reviewed : the springs are firmer than on a Chiron, and the camber has been increased. This limits stability at high speed, and forced the engineers to lower the restriction to 380 km / h, against 420 km / h on the Chiron. Also, the Divo is 35 kg lighter (but still weighs 1,960 kg) while the large rear wing, 1.86 m wide generates a downforce of up to 456 kg (366 kg on the Chiron).

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A lighter and more agile Bugatti? Here is a philosophy which is strangely reminiscent of the Chiron Pur Sport. "Pur Sport is meant to be even more radical," explains Andy Wallace. "The Divo needs to be everyday usable and comfortable, while gaining agility compared to the Chiron. This is obvious at high speeds, where lane changes on the German Autobahn are much more immediate and precise." If we attempt a connection with the 911 range, the Chiron would be in terms of handling the equivalent of a Carrera S, the Divo of a GTS and the Pur Sport of a GT3 RS.

A disconcerting ease

This morning, Andy Wallace smiles in relief. Because the Bugatti teams were very concerned that they would not be able to drive on the planned route, with the surface more bumpy and degraded than expected. After a spotting, all is well. "The suspension of this car is extraordinary, it swallows bumps without trailing or losing its trajectory." The way is clear: we can start from the historic stands of Targa Florio to go up to Cerda, a few kilometers away, the first village crossed by the race.

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This stretch of road, very winding, is probably not the best place to exploit the full capabilities of a 1,500 hp car, capable of catapulting you up to 300 km / h in about 13 seconds. But above all, Bugatti is keen to return to the scene of the crime and demonstrate the agility of its hypercar. From the first few meters, despite the intimidating rumble of the 8.0-liter W16 (which alone weighs 400 kg), you feel at ease. Thanks to a specific ingredient: a management with an exceptional feeling. It turns out to be both light and informative. That of a Porsche 911 turns out to be precise, it appears telepathic. “Our developers did an incredible job,” said Andy Wallace. "This is proof that today it is possible to offer electric power steering as convincing as, if not better than hydraulic power assisted steering. In fact, when we had our colleagues at Porsche try the prototypes, they wanted to know more. But the components we use are too expensive for their applications. "

Contained power

During my first kilometers, the traffic forces me to go slowly. This allows me to get used to the size and the reactions of the car … and to enjoy the astonishing suspension comfort. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, signed by the British supplier Ricardo, is totally forgotten, picking up the gears with exemplary fluidity in Drive, a little more brutality in Sport. Then the horizon clears and I use the steering wheel paddles and manual mode. The colossal torque (1,600 Nm available from 2,000 rpm) allows you to stay in third almost all the time. A small stretch of straight line is an opportunity to crush the accelerator to the floor. The strength is phenomenal. Less immediate and savage than in a McLaren 720 S, for example, but the rise in power seems inexhaustible. The next turn is already coming, I'm still very far from the red zone. The four turbos' dump valves make a frightening "pschhh" as I slam the brake pedal. The slowdown is immediate, massive.

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The most astounding thing is that the acceleration and braking happened without any burrs, despite the bumps that deform the bitumen. All-wheel drive and electronics are able to harness the insane energy of the W16, as well as soften the phenomenal bite of the carbon-ceramic brake rotors. There is always the impression of a contained force, of a machine that controls itself, as if she felt cramped, deprived of the great outdoors. Even though the Divo at first looks like an elephant in a china shop on Madonie roads, she manages to do more than decently. Because the engineers wanted it and achieved a feat. This has been a constant at Bugatti, since Ferdinand Piëch demanded 1,000 hp in the Veyron.

One hundred years ago with the Type 35

But, almost a century old, the Type 35 has not had its last word. It is as capricious as the Divo is docile: before taking me as a passenger, Andy Wallace must pressurize the tank with a manual pump, then pump three times using another lever to bring the gasoline in the carburetors. Finally, the in-line eight-cylinder makes a purr of incomparable charm. Engaging the first requires a skilful dosage of idling speed, otherwise the gearbox gears will crack.

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In the few bends that lead to Cerda, the Bugatti Type 35 feels at home. Compact (it is only 1.32 m wide), light (750 kg), it twirls around the curves by exploiting the width of the road, which was entirely occupied by the Divo a few minutes earlier. Despite its tires no wider than those of a moped, despite the positive camber of its front end, it clings to the asphalt with astonishing fervor. She is the exact opposite of the one who wants to pay him homage. And yet, both arouse and will arouse the madness of collectors for a long time to come.

Bugatti Divo
  • Exceptional direction
  • Amazing agility
  • Inexhaustible power
  • Incomparable exclusivity
  • Already all sold
  • Penalizing width
  • Perfectible soundproofing in Drive
  • Slower than a Chiron
  • Performances5/5
  • Road behavior5/5
  • Comfort4/5
  • Practical aspects2/5
  • Price / equipment– / 5
  • Presentation quality5/5
  • Consumption– / 5
Categories Cars

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