The name Jean-Pierre Wimille became synonymous with Bugatti’s legacy, especially when it came to racing in the 1930s, long before the Bugatti Veyron supercar was a twinkle in the eye of engineer and former Volkswagen Group boss Ferdinand Piëch. French racer Wimille got his start in a Bugatti 37A at the 1930 French Grand Prix, going on to win at Le Mans in 1937 and 1939 in the aerodynamic Bugatti Type 57G Tank, of which only three were made.
As a tip of the hat to this legendary driver, Bugatti built three examples of the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse Jean-Pierre Wimille Legend Edition. One of these will cross the auction block in Pebble Beach, Calif., on August 20 with 1,185 miles on its odometer. Finished in Bleu Wimille paint (a color true to that found on the original 57G Tank) with Dark Blue carbon-fiber accents, the supercar is bestowed with a strapping 8.0-liter, quad-turbocharged W-16 engine capable of delivering 1,184 hp and 1,106 ft lbs of twist. In all, the Wimille Veyron is a fitting tribute to its namesake racer, who represented Bugatti for several years after his final Le Mans win in ’39.
This predecessor to the Bugatti Chiron can blast from zero to 62 mph in 2.6 seconds, and while its speedometer ticks up to 280 mph, it has reached 254 mph during what was, at the time, record-breaking testing. With those performance specs in mind, it’s no surprise that racer Anthony Liu set a world speed record for open-top vehicles in a Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse in 2013, an impressive feat for a monocoque that has been sheared of swaths of its carbon fiber.
As for its power plant, the W-16 engine started with Piëch, who shepherded Bugatti out of bankruptcy, but his original idea was for an 18-cylinder engine comprised of three VR6 cylinder banks. Yet by the time the Veyron started production in 2005, the W-16 was the prevailing mill as it was lighter.
Wimille’s name and references to his achievements are imprinted in numerous places on the Veyron being presented by Mecum Auctions. Underneath the rear wing and on the rear center-box lid are silhouettes of the Le Mans race circuit to honor Bugatti’s first and subsequent win with Wimille as the driver. And the Frenchman’s signature is stitched into the headrests as well as laser-etched into the fuel tank and oil caps. Sadly, Wimille died behind the wheel while preparing for the Buenos Aires Grand Prix in 1949. If only he could see this model himself, more than 80 years after his last Le Mans win, he’d surely approve of both the machine’s power and artistry.
“While all Bugatti Veyrons are astonishing examples of cutting-edge technology, incredible design and brutal performance, this particular example is noteworthy,” says John Kramer, consignment director for Mecum Auctions. “The heritage it represents provides all of us with a glimpse to the storied Bugatti past as well as the commitment to excellence today in a rare and stunning presentation.”
It will be a sort of homecoming for this Bugatti when it takes the Mecum stage, as the variant debuted exactly nine years ago at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Approximately 1,200 lots comprise the numerous auctions scheduled for the 2022 edition of Monterey Car Week, with a predicted outcome approaching $400 million in total sales. Of that figure, this 2014 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse Jean-Pierre Wimille Legend Edition is estimated to contribute as much as $3.3 million alone.
Click here to see this 2014 Jean-Pierre Wimille Legend Edition of the Bugatti Veyron in Photos.