Pitting the world’s fastest rides against airplanes isn’t a novel idea—OG Top Gear famously raced a Bugatti Veyron against a Eurofighter Tycoon, and Red Bull has pulled similar stunts with its Formula One racing machines.
But perhaps the most deserving car to line up alongside an aircraft on a drag strip is the Bugatti Chiron Sport Les Legendes du Ciel (translation: “Legends of the Sky”), and the French supercar maker just made it happen.
Bugatti’s history is steeped in aviation. Ettore Bugatti witnessed the birth of the airplane before he founded the company, and his racing drivers benefitted from their background as fighter pilots in a nascent French Air Force.
The aviation-honoring Les Legendes du Ciel edition is accordingly dressed in a matte-gray “Gris Serpent” paint job, an interpretation of 1920s-era aircraft schemes.
On the door panels, there’s a sketch of a racing scene between the Nieuport 17 airplane and a Bugatti Type 13 that represents the two historical links commemorated by the exotic sports car.
Each of the 20 examples run the Bugatti Chiron Sport’s 8.0-liter W16 engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, good for nearly 1,500 horsepower, a 2.4-second zero-to-60 mph time and a 261-mph top end.
As Airows notes, its high-flying opponent is the French Air Force’s Rafale Marine, which is loaded with 5,650 horsepower. It can hit a top speed of Mach 1.6, or 1,230 mph.
“The two high-technology products from France are at the top of their respective fields and stand for the technical progress made after decades of development work in automotive and aerospace engineering,” Bugatti said of the event, which was was designed as a side-by-side comparison of their acceleration, torque and braking behavior.
With Bugatti’s Le Mans and French Formula 3-winning test driver Pierre-Henri Raphanel at the wheel, the Chiron took the lead early lead on the go ground, but the altitude-gaining fighter jet was well ahead by the time Raphanel hit the brakes before running out of runway.
“The Chiron Sport has incredible acceleration force which comes very close to that of the Rafale,” Raphanel said, but “the comparison of France’s top two technical systems was therefore declared a draw.”