Super Sport Shakedown!

“Look at this beauty… let me take a picture! Che bella!”. Loris Bicocchi is still a boy at heart. If you weren’t familiar with him, you would have easily assumed that he had never seen an EB110 SS in real life. Nevertheless you know a thing or two about him, you know that he’s more than acquainted with this particular motorcar: one of the most sensible and capable test drivers of the last 30 years, he has helped develop almost any supercar of the last 25 years. From the Pagani Zonda to the Bugatti Veyron and to Koenigsegg, Loris has seen and driven it all. Seeing him in front of a Bugatti EB110 SS, one of the definitive cars of the last 30 years that he developed in period, he seems as happy as if he saw an old friend for the first time in years. I guess certain love affairs won’t never ever fade away. Hired at the Campogalliano Bugatti factory as a test driver in 1989, Loris became the man to develop for the then ground-breaking EB110. In only 5 years, the re-born Italian Bugatti factory produced one of the most interesting and innovative supercars ever to come out of the Motor Valley and Loris lived through it all.

In the hour-or-so we spent together at the old Bugatti’s Campogalliano Factory together with the EB110 Super Sport, it truly felt like walking through another time in history. For all those petrolheads who are in their 30ies, this car is important as, especially in the form of a 1:18 scale Bburago model, helped us develop our love for everything automotive. And now, 24 years after the Factory closed we’re here at Campogalliano in the company of Loris, driving around the old test track, trying to re-live the years when this place was thriving with life and resonating with beautiful V12 music.

We like driving cars, that’s for sure, but what’s really to complain when you’re being driven around by the man who developed this legendary supercar? Better to strap your belts on and learn from those who made history. 

As a kind man and a legend among driving enthusiasts, Loris doesn’t act like a superstar. In the cockpit, he is in his element: with the whistle of the quad-turbo V12 behind our backs and the smell of leather inside we went around the Factory, around the very track where the EB110 was developed since day one.

As we eased onto the main straight (aka the longest piece of tarmac in front of the Factory), Loris accelerates hard and the cabin fills with the hiss the 4 turbos filling the cockpit as he guns past 4.000 rpm. The grin on his face would have spoken a thousand words, but trying not to interrupt the momentum, we begun our interview.

EoW: After all these years, it seems you never had enough… 

LB: No, never. It’s never enough.

EoW: it’s right to suppose that you could define yourself as a bugattiste

LB: Absolutely, but allow me to clarify that I love all cars first. However, Bugatti has represented 30 years of my career. I first came here in 1989 and consider that I am still working on these cars. After the Factory closed in 1995 I went to Montecarlo where we continued to work on the EB110’s, including on the two racing cars: I never truly stopped ever since.

EoW: which were the first major areas of development right after you drove the first prototype?

LB: The first five prototypes were codenamed A1 to A5 and had the aluminum chassis. Thankfully they later choose to switch to the carbon fibre tubs, making the 110 the first production car with this kind of  construction. We never really finished the development and in 5 years we continued to improve the car in every area, from the drivetrain to the suspension. You can say that this car had been built from scratch and was entirely our project. Always keep in mind that you can always improve every car long after that it is “finished”.

After having completed the first lap of the “circuit” around the Factory, Loris interrupts briefly the interview as we pass again in front of the main blue building and begins to tell about the memories of driving around the track many times. “This”, says indicating the small road around the Factory, “became almost immediately our test track”. From the first time we rolled out the first bare chassis for the initial shakedown, from the very end, this was our personal track. At the beginning, we didn’t have a method to signal our shakedowns. I remember one day that I was out testing I had to avoid hitting a delivery truck that had had no clue and had gotten out of the buildings! I had to swerve to the right and put the car into the grass! Fortunately no one was hurt… poor guy, he didn’t expect to see a Bugatti at full chat exiting the corner directed at him! After that incident we installed a systems made of sirens and gates, to prevent any more accidents.” 

EoW: so, almost all tests were carried out around here, right?

LB: yes. we would normally do all braking and handling tests. It was a good track to come up with a proper set-up. There used to be some cars parked at some points of the track: in all effect was a small service road but once we decided about its new purpose it was cleared of any other thing.  

Obviously the initial part of testing was done here. Obviously we also had our test route of 70-80 kms on public roads to fine tune each car: this was a process that would take some time, before approving every car for delivery and each time was different.

You know, I love challenges in the end. I love working on newer cars: I remember when I got a call from Koenigsegg to develop their cars from zero. I love to do this because I hate to get stuck with only one Brand: you hardly progress with your feelings and you become used to the cars that you drive. It’s important for me to keep working on different projects in order to maintain a good level of feeling in order to always have a better eye on any car’s behavior. 

EoW: How fast did you go around here? It Seems tight!

LB: “We did drive pretty fast around here. I always arrived at full throttle in third gear at the end of the main straight taking that difficult tight left hander in second,” he indicates with a smile, pointing at the end of the road, right in front of the factory buildings. My mind quickly tries to picture a pedal-to-the-metal Loris, winging a brand new 110 around that bend. “After working hours, all my colleagues used to come out and see me do test drives at night around the Factory, just to see the gleaming brakes and the exhaust flames! Here we also did the shakedown of the two Le Mans cars” he continues on with a visibly satisfied smile. “It was challenging every day, you know… but it was the best time of my life.”

EoW: What happened to you after the closure?

LB: Gildo Pastor, the only customer that commissioned a “Sport Competition” version of the 110 (the one that took the ice speed record ndr) loved our cars so much that after the Company closed he bought at the auction all of the spare parts, including some remaining cars and he brought them in Montecarlo. I went with him to work at the assistance services to all customers. I travel all over the world to go directly to assist owners at their properties: for example I went to Brunei to look after the Sultan’s car and did so for many others. When in 2000 the Bugatti name was bought by the VW group, I was called in Wolfsburg to work on the Veyron, so I begun another adventure with this Brand again.

EoW: How did the Veyron compare with the EB110? In your opinion how the weight influenced the new car?

LB: Weight wasn’t an issue, also because the EB was also an heavy car given its four wheel drive an all its systems. I always get upset when people think that  Veyron and the Chiron are heavy and cumbersome… they always forget to consider the fact that many contemporary supercars are almost as heavy: think about the Aventador or even the 918 they have a weight difference of only 60-80 kg!

It was time to let the Master finish his job: after all, this yellow EB110 SS had to complete the pre-delivery shakedown to its new Customer, an American collector. We were able to catch a glimpse of what it must have been like in time to work on a car that embodied all the aspirations and dreams of every car enthusiast. 

The Bugatti Factory has become a monument now. In the tales of those lucky enough to have worked there, it was the embodiment of a true dram job. In the words of Loris and with the sound of the EB110 behind us, it was the best way possible to convince ourselves that dreams sometimes can be a reality.

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