The Bugatti Bolide track car has some radical design features, including a massive roof-mounted air scoop with an unusual design inspiration. It turns out the engineers borrowed an aerodynamic trick from the humble golf ball.
Golf balls are remarkably aerodynamic. Their dimpled surface allows them to travel about twice as far as a smooth ball, according to Bugatti. That's because the dimples create turbulence on the surface of the ball, allowing air to adhere better and as a result reduce drag. One of Bugatti's engineers decided to apply the same principle to a car.
Bugatti Bolide dimpled roof scoop
This engineer began experimenting with dimpled surfaces as part of a master's thesis, adding dimples to the cooling channels of a 3D-printed titanium brake caliper Bugatti developed. For the Bolide, a "morphable outer skin" was used on the scoop. It stays smooth at low speeds, but grows dimples at higher speeds. It includes 60 individual elements that can move up to 10 millimeters, and achieves its maximum effectiveness at speeds above 74 mph.
The result is 10% less drag and 17% less lift, the automaker said. As with any track car, though, aerodynamics aren't just about reducing drag. The Bolide's rear wing generates 3,968 pounds of downforce at 198 mph, while the front wing generates 1,764 pounds of downforce at that speed.
While not based on any previous Bugatti, the Bolide uses the 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W-16 engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, and all-wheel-drive system from the Chiron. In the Bolide, the W-16 delivers 1,824 horsepower and 1,365 pound-feet of torque on 110-octane racing fuel.
Based on Bugatti's estimates, the Bolide could top 310 mph and also lap Le Mans' Circuit de la Sarthe racetrack in 3:07.1, or about 10 seconds quicker than the current race record set by the Toyota TS050 Hybrid at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bugatti also claims the Bolide would lap the Nürburgring in 5:23.1—not far off the 5:19.55 lap record set by the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo in 2018—thanks in part to golf balls.