I opened my eyes and immediately made a dash for the bedroom window. Still wiping sleepiness from my face, I pulled back the curtains and exhaled a massive sigh of relief. The Dubai skyline was once again engulfed in its customary glorious sunshine. I know it’s not unusual for there to be good weather in the Emirates, but after several years of waiting, my first opportunity to drive a Bugatti Veyron had a few days earlier been tripped up by freak thunderstorms that had flooded our normally dry and dusty roads with several centimetres of accumulated precipitation. Not exactly ideal conditions for getting the most out of a roofless 1000bhp hypercar that costs more than most luxury homes.
Today is absolutely perfect though. The air is clear of dust as a result of the previous day’s torrential rain, allowing clear light to shine brightly on the stunning bodywork of the car that is parked before me. I am standing in-front of the tastefully stylish Dubai Park Hyatt hotel that is today’s rendezvous point, ogling every delicious detail of the Chestnut Grey Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport I’m about to drive. I’ve seen Veyrons numerous times before but I’ve never looked at one in the same context that I do today. Despite the fact that in my role as evo editor I have driven the great and the good of automotive exotica, the Bugatti Veyron was the big one that’d got away.
As a defence mechanism to having given up on ever driving one, I convinced myself that I wasn’t all that interested anyway; that it was just an overweight, overpowered, overrated dragster that was more about incredible numbers than an incredible driving experience. The extent that I was kidding myself only became apparent to me when I found out a couple of weeks earlier that I would finally be getting behind the wheel of the Bug.
As we circle the car, my chaperone for today – Bugatti ‘Pilote Officiel’ and ex-F1 and Le Mans racer Pierre Henri Raphanel – talks me through some of the differences between the Grand Sport and the run-of-the-mill (if you could ever call it that) coupe. Most obvious are the new LED lights and the new wheels that continue the horseshoe theme of the front grille and interior centre console. Strangely (considering the astronomical price) the Grand Sport is also the first Veyron to come with parking sensors, sat nav and a nifty reversing camera – the screen for which is in the right-hand side of the rear-view mirror. There’s also a new digital speed display option in the central rev-counter to stop you squinting down to see what ridiculous speed the smallish gauge shows you are hurtling down the road at.
Also, to compensate for the loss in rigidity in removing the roof, Bugatti has used an aerospace- grade ultra-high-strength carbon fibre to reinforce the structure. The doors are also now made from carbon fibre rather than aluminium. The result is the stiffest open-roofed car ever produced and according to Raphanel, the difference in dynamics to the coupe can only be felt at the absolute limits of handling. I’ll take his word for it.
Aesthetically, the biggest difference is obviously that the roof is now removed, but somehow I find that it improves the elegantly muscular looks of the fixed roof Veyron. The front windshield is slightly longer and there are two carbon fibre roll-over hoops that are integrated into the engines air intakes. The Veyron never did much for me in the looks department, but there’s something about the Grand Sport that really turns me on. As strange as it may sound, it’s carved-from-a-solid-block looks remind me of the super hero Iron Man. All it needs is to be painted Burgundy and Gold and it would make the perfect car for Robert Downey in this summer’s upcoming sequel.
After my brief introduction Pierre-Henri and I jump in the car and head out into the Deira traffic, but frustratingly I am in the passenger seat rather than behind the wheel. It looks like I’ll have to wait a little bit longer to pop my Veyron cherry. For the next half hour or so we cruise along serenely at no more than 100kph. We leave the Dubai traffic behind us and all the while, Pierre-Henri recites the same story of the Veyron that he’s told thousands of times before. While it’s clear that his speech is a sales pitch designed to add drama to the occasion, I find myself hanging on every word he utters as it’s mostly fascinating stuff and full of intriguing anecdotes. Here are just a few.