There has been much speculation of late that Bugatti will finally return to racing after a 25-year absence with the Bolide, its new track-focused, W16-powered hypercar reportedly packing 1,825 horsepower, and capable of blasting past 300 mph.
So, this seems like a fitting moment to take a look at the famed French marque’s last two race cars, the EB 110 LM (Le Mans) and SC (Sport Competizione), which competed in 1994 and 1996, marking the end of an era for Bugatti.
It was an all-too-brief racing revival for the marque, which competed at Le Mans from 1923 until 1939, the year Pierre Veyron triumphed over the competition in a Bugatti Type 57 C. Fast forward to September 15, 1991, which would have been marque founder Ettore Bugatti’s 110th birthday, when its then-owner Romano Artioli unveiled the EB 110.
Capable of a top speed of 218.5 mph thanks to its 560–610-hp V12 engine (depending on the variant), and equipped with four turbochargers and a lightweight carbon monocoque, it was the most modern, most advanced, and fastest production supercar ever built.
A remarkable new book, The Last Bugatti Racing Cars, by motorsport experts Johann Petit and Pascal van Mele, and edited by Bugatti’s former Head of Tradition, Julius Kruta, examines the racing variants of the EB 110 that looked for a time as if they would carry on Bugatti’s historic racing success.
While that turned out not to be the case, the race cars and the vehicles they were based on—the built-to-order EB 110 GT (Grand Touring) and SS (Super Sport)— have become modern icons, among the rarest and most valuable vehicles of their era.
Jakob Greisen, Head of U.S. Motoring for world-renowned UK auction house Bonhams, says the Super Sport versions, of which only 32 examples were built, hold the most attraction for top-class collectors.
Although, he tells us, “In my opinion, the EB 110 of any variation was bound to increase in value, and be more appreciated as a collector car for a few reasons: it is of the age and era which generally a car has to be when starting to appreciate; it was made by a renowned manufacturer; and it made its mark on the era in which it was built [breaking several world records]. In other words, people remember them, and there is a certain affection and romance for them.”
While EB 110s have not always commanded the attention, or prices, of the likes of the McLaren F1, even a “base model” EB 110 GT (of which only 96 were built) can currently fetch as much as $1 million at auction, “if the miles (or kms) are low, and the car is original, well-preserved and serviced—sometimes even more if the color is rare and desirable,” Greisen says.
Given the same conditions, he notes that a Super Sport can bring in as much as $3 million. The two incredibly rare official racing versions would go for far more than that, in the unlikely event that one will ever be offered for sale. Equally desirable, should it ever come to market, would be the yellow EB 110 SS owned and raced by legendary F1 driver Michael Schumacher.
The Last Bugatti Racing Cars is an extraordinary tribute—limited editions of the book range from about $550 to over $1,000—to an extraordinary car, and features many previously-unreleased photographs and a trove of archival material, alongside remembrances and eyewitness accounts from key figures involved in the EB110’s development and racing career—including racing driver Derek Hill, race engineer Dieter Gass, and Bugatti test driver Loris Bicocchi. The latter recently took an EB 110 SS out for a run.
“I’m still amazed at just how modern the EB 110 SS still feels to drive,” he marveled. “It’s direct, to the point, light, and incredibly fast. It boasts good roadholding and offers top grip.”
In 2019, Bugatti paid tribute to the EB 110 by unveiling the Centodieci (Italian for 110), a reinterpretation of the original, celebrating the marque’s 110th birthday. With just 10 examples built for collectors worldwide, the 1,578-hp rocket ship, which has an (electronically limited) top speed of 240 mph, is priced at about $9 million.
Fittingly the Centodieci shares its drive strategy with the Bolide, which may pick up where the EB 110 LM left off, should a run at Le Mans in 2022 be feasible—no doubt ushering in a new era of racing domination for the brand that has been not-so-quietly biding its time.