How Bugatti’s dynamics experts work during lockdown

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Bugatti may have suspended vehicle production at its facility in Molsheim, France, but its dynamics experts are continuing work apace. While many workers are busy working on laptops at home, Lars Fischer, Bugatti’s head of chassis testing and application, and Sven Bohnhorst, chassis setup engineer, are doing something rather more glamorous as they continue to test the Chiron and Divo hyper sports cars from home.

Fischer (48) has been working for Bugatti since 2011 and is responsible for the company’s testing department. “Although we are not working in the office at present, we are constantly developing the vehicles further and driving numerous kilometres at test sites and on public roads. This means we are still on schedule,” he says.

It’s largely business as usual for Fischer, though there are some inevitable changes to his usual daily work routine. “At the moment, we agree every morning on which applications we want to test over the next two days so that we can react quickly to new situations. Normally we would plan our tasks in advance on a weekly basis,” he explains.
The engineers are also dependent on other teams and test sites. “We always have to check how the other employees are working and whether any legal regulations have changed,” states Fischer.
If it is not possible to conduct test drives and trial runs on roads, the engineers instead work on their calculation and simulation models at home using digital work processes. Communicating via Skype is a change for Fischer and Bohnhorst, but so far it has worked out well.

Lars Fischer has a rather enviable home office

Solo test drives

“Normally, we always have two engineers working on test drives in the Chiron or Divo so that the road tests can be conducted according to a set checklist and the data can be saved to a computer in real time,” explains Sven Bohnhorst.

The 31-year-old has specialised in Bugatti steering and damper calibration since 2014 and has helped to develop cars such as the record-breaking Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+. “Since we always maintain the recommended safe distance from our colleagues, and this is not possible in a car, we are currently driving solo,” he says.

For example, Bohnhorst now has to stop to use the computer so that he can change certain test parameters. This means that calibration takes more time – up to 30% longer – as some test facilities have only a few stopping points.

“But the data obtained is as accurate as ever,” he says. The engineers are currently working in shifts, alternating between three vehicles, sitting in the car for up to seven hours but complying with occupational safety regulations. The engineers have long work days, but naturally testing Bugattis is enjoyable. “Working with a hyper sports car like the Chiron with 1,500PS is a great job that I enjoy doing every single day and one that fills me with pride,” says Bohnhorst.

Development work is teamwork

However much Bohnhorst loves his cars, he does miss personal and direct communication with other experts. “We usually discuss the often subjective handling aspects, and seek out better solutions together as a team. At the moment we have to make do with written summaries,” says Bohnhorst.

Lars Fischer also relies on personal and visual contact in his work. “Although many things can be explained in telephone conferences, face-to-face communication directly in the car is easier when dealing with complex topics,” he explains. To give him a better understanding of the views of team members, he usually travels as a passenger on the final test drives – but at the moment he is driving solo instead.

Bugatti is still testing its vehicles on the high-speed track at Ehra-Lessien and on public roads. Trips to the Nürburgring or Bilster Berg are also possible, as long as they do not take more than a working day, as overnight stays in hotels are not possible at the moment. This also applies to test drives in Southern Italy or France, the home of Bugatti.

“However, these tests are still important and we hope that we will be able to drive in Southern Europe again soon when the restrictions have been lifted,” says Bohnhorst. As he does not have to head out on long business trips at the moment, he now has time to work on his passion project: a classic Porsche 911 Carrera.

“My little workshop is a great retreat where I can recharge my batteries,” says Bohnhorst.

Bohnhorst working on his Porsche 911 in his home workshop

But he is already looking forward to working on Bugatti vehicles with the whole team again, sitting in the car together. And so that they can keep in touch, Sven Bohnhorst likes to meet up online in the evenings so that they can enjoy a quick drive together on a racing simulator game. What car does he choose to drive? “A Bugatti, of course,” he reples. “What else?”

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About Author

Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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