Koenigsegg has been in the news this week for setting a new production car ultimate speed record. However it hasn’t been easy for the small Swedish hypercar company to prove its credentials.
It’s not often a new company who jumps in the deep end succeeds in the car business. It seems like every other day a new supercar maker pops up with a press release and a new car to sell to the well-heeled of the world. Fuelled by dreams of emulating Enzo Ferrari, Ferdinand Porsche or Ferruccio Lamborghini. In the last 30 years, only two have succeeded. Italy’s Pagani and Sweden’s Koenigsegg.
Genius and Vision
From humble origins and at the age of just 22, Christian von Koenigsegg set about making his eponymous cars. Naturally gifted with an aptitude for tinkering and the technical, he was able to produce a prototype to his own design by effectively crowd-sourcing know how and work. A pretty novel idea for 1994.
Never trained as an engineer, Christian von Koenigsegg learned to be one. A modern inventor in every sense of the word, his early innovations included a clever catalytic converter that reduces exhaust back pressure without loss of emission control. A clever supercharger response system that replaced the blow-off valve and a pressurised dry-sump system.
In 2003 he would deliver the first production car, the CC8S to his first customers. The car was certified by Guinness to have the world’s most powerful production engine. It was lighter, more powerful and with less drag than the McLaren F1. That made it, theoretically the fastest production car in the world. It wouldn’t be until 2005, however that they were able to get the budget together to get on a track and prove it. At Italy’s Nardo in the upgraded CCR, they were able to wrest the record from the McLaren by a scant 1.46km/h. The record theirs, the theory proven.
Goal Posts, Moved
Later that year, the Bugatti Veyron came along and re-set the bar for hypercar makers. No longer was 600 or 800hp acceptable, 1000hp was the new black. The owner of Bugatti, Volkswagen, owned one of the two race tracks in the world where you can do those speeds. From 2012, they would own both. When you own the playground, you get to choose who gets to play. Big companies like Volkswagen don’t let small upstarts take away their records at their own facilities.
Koenigsegg quite famously preferred not to fit a rear spoiler to the cars to preserve low drag and high speed. That is until on Top Gear, the Stig had a high speed snap oversteer in a CCX. Despite the portrayal on Top Gear – Clarkson is never one to shy away from embellishment for the benefit of story – the “Top Gear wing” was already offered as an optional extra. The car would return with tyre removed, front bar fixed and wing fitted to set the ultimate fastest lap on Top Gear. From this point onward Koenigsegg turned away from the fastest top speed stuff and moved on to ultimate all round performance. The cars started to grow wings and other downforce-creating devices.
It was at this point a new performance benchmark would be devised. 0-300-0km/h. A true test of engine, chassis and brakes, top speed be damned. Driven by Sport Auto’s Horst von Saurma the CCX set the benchmark at 29.2 seconds. Some supercars don’t even get to 300km/h in that time, let alone stop.
Koenigsegg would go about lowering the 0-300-0 bar over the coming years. In 2011 the Agera R lowered the mark to 21.19 seconds. In 2015 the One:1 would lower it again to just 17.95 seconds.
The Big Guys Start Taking Notice
Then Bugatti decided to change the game. Not merely happy with Konigsegg’s 0-300-0 benchmark, they set about upping the ante. In August 2017, the Chiron set the marker for the 0-400-0 test at 41.96 seconds. With Juan Pablo Montoya driving in a relaxed business shirt and jeans no less.
That is a mind-bending number and the video was equally impressive. The four-wheel-drive Chiron seeming extremely well suited to the task of putting its 1500hp to the ground.
It’s pretty clear why Bugatti wanted to change it up. It took them over 3km to set the 0-400-0 record at their own, massive, Ehra-Lessein facility. Koenigsegg would have to find another facility to go after the record, their own runway in Ängelholm is just 1,400m long.
Enter a Curious Customer
The 0-400-0 mark wasn’t really on Koenigsegg’s radar. That is until a customer asked for his car to be used to verify its theoretical performance chops. Before delivery out to the States, Koenigsegg took the car to a runway in Denmark to attempt the record. It took the Chiron 3,112m to set its record. The runway Koenigsegg was able to secure for the run was just 2,800m long.
Due to the pre-delivery status of the car, it was on older tyres with heavier testing wheels than the carbon ones it would eventually wear. The runway was poorly maintained, so traction was poor. The Agera’s on board computer was still recording wheelspin at 183km/h. Despite all this the Agera RS smashed the Bugatti’s mark. 36.44 seconds in only 2,441m.
If You Had the Means, You Would Too.
This would only be the curtain raiser to something much more. Mark, the owner of the red Agera RS wanted to find out what his car could really do. It turns out Mark is also very well connected, as he was able to get 17km of some of the flattest, straightest public tarmac in the world closed for another record attempt. In Nevada.
You’re here, so you’ve likely read the news already. There isn’t much more to say other than watch the video. The downhill run especially is truly epic.
The gameplan to work up to the record over a period of two days. The car felt so good, though, test driver Niklas Lilja decided to go for it right away. The record was set after only 3 runs, a sighting run and two full blown attempts, one in either direction as prescribed by Guinness.
Given they had plenty of time left, they figured they should have another crack at that 0-400-0 mark. The car had decent tyres on it and the road was much grippier than the runway in Denmark after all. The result? A truly staggering 33.29 seconds over a distance of 2,239.5m. That’s over 8 seconds faster than the Bugatti Chiron in almost 900m less space. At this end of the spectrum, a few tenths are celebrated. In this company 8 seconds is measured with a calendar.
Possibly even more impressive, that’s less than 4 seconds away from the CCX’s time from 0-300-0.
Mark is very smart. He has guaranteed by orchestrating all this is that his dark red Agera RS is truly special. It’s the record car. In the future, just like Steve McQueen’s Ferrari 250 California it’ll be the most special of all the Ageras, possibly even more special than a One:1. Collectability guaranteed.
For Christian von Koenigsegg, it’s vindication. Theoretically his cars always were truly special, he just had very limited opportunities to prove it. Now he has and the lore of the little Swedish company that could gains another chapter. The saying goes, “Every dog has his day.” November 4th 2017 is the day Koenigsegg took on the biggest automaker in the world and absolutely wiped the floor with them.
Here’s cheers to Christian von Koenigsegg, for proving that ingenuity and vision can still beat the world’s mega corporations and their R&D budget.
Your move, Mr. Winkelmann.
If you aren’t fully au fait with the Koenigsegg story, /Drive did a sensational series called Inside Koenigsegg for their online channel. You can – and should – watch it here:
The same guys also made a full-length film chronicling the life and times of the hypercar, where Koenigsegg features heavily, I highly recommend it.