On September 1, 2014, Bugatti officially appointed Loris Bicocchi, 57, as its test driver charged with developing the Chiron hypercar, the Veyron’s replacement. This is another chapter in a remarkable career for Bicocchi, quiet and considered but with an infectious passion.
LB: I am here in Nardo [the Porsche-owned test facility in southern Italy] for another two weeks. We have six cars, and four of them are for me, so I jump from one to the next to the next. Then
I fly to Michelin to try the newest tires, home for a few days, and then some more testing in another part of
AM: Your job sounds incredible. How has your career brought you to this role?
LB: We can start from 1974 when I started at Lamborghini [in the R&D warehouse, then became a mechanic in 1975]. I stayed until 1989 and achieved my life dream to become a test driver there. I was attracted by the new Bugatti—the EB110 was coming—and I received a phone call from Paolo Stanzani, the technical director. He said, “When are you coming to me? We are here waiting for you.” Bugatti was really attracting me because I knew they were thinking about four-wheel drive, turbochargers, a carbon-fiber chassis, and many, many things I didn’t know yet. I learned a lot, a lot, a lot. I understood what it was to tune a car, tune suspension, tune tires, to tune an engine.
AM: So that was where you became the test driver you are today?
LB: You never stop learning. When Bugatti ended in 1995 I moved to Monte Carlo. I spent a couple of years with the Monaco Racing Team, and we did some races with the EB110 Super Sport Competizione. After that I met Jochen Dauer, and together with him we worked on the Porsche 962 road car. One car was sold to the sultan of Brunei, and I was asked to deliver the car. I’d heard so much about his collection, this person. The sultan had something like 2,000 supercars, and many were unique. You can imagine for me, staying in this village, it was like I was dreaming. I met the boss, and he understood that I knew Lamborghini, I knew Bugatti—he had five Super Sports—so he asked if I could go back to test the cars, fix any problems. For me it was a very, very nice time. I could, for example, take a McLaren F1 for a drive when I wanted. It was crazy.
When I was back from the sultan, [Horacio] Pagani contacted me. He was just starting with his project, and of course Horacio and I knew each other already for a long time from Lambo. He proposed to me to develop the Zonda. We spent a few years together, starting from white paper. You work with Pagani and you know what perfect means. Then afterwards I was at the Paris show and I saw the first prototype of Koenigsegg. I met Christian von Koenigsegg, we discussed a little bit, I was attracted by the suspension, the long arms, so then I moved to Sweden to help. At the same time, in 2000, Bugatti got in touch about the Veyron. It was a difficult situation, but in the
end I was spending 80 percent of my time with Bugatti and 20 percent
AM: What do you bring to a project? How can you implement those qualities and yet ensure each car has a unique personality?
LB: For me, I realized day by day that the secret is to follow the personality of the car. If I tried to make the Koenigsegg like an everyday car … for me it’s not possible. The car itself is created with an idea. It is brutal, a monster, and that must be the focus. You must follow what the car is telling you. For example, the Zonda you can drive every day. The engine, the suspension, and the cockpit, the central idea of the car creates this. You cannot change the personality of the car but just follow what it’s asking for. Can you understand what I mean? I think you must find solutions to make everything harmonic with the personality of the car.
AM: What’s an average day like when you’re testing at Nardo?
LB: Ha, oh … I enjoy! No, I mean it depends what kind of activity. Personally I am more expert in chassis—including structure, suspension, uprights, wheel bearings, tires—this is normally what I did in my life. But now I cooperate in tuning engine response, transmission, playing with the four-wheel drive, rear differential, center differential. You have to combine everything together. So I’m sliding [the car] with four-wheel drive and trying to let the driver enjoy, a little yaw but not too big. … I cannot say exactly what I will do tomorrow. I will be working on the electric steering for sure, on the suspension settings, but if someone from the transmission department asks me what I think about a new differential locking in power-on or lift-off, then I will do it. To take a big jump in power and keep the safety and the character of the Veyron Super Sport but enhance it in all areas … it will be an interesting car.