Bugatti’s Type 35 hits the Targa Florio with the Divo for old time’s sake
Bugatti’s burnishing the halo on the Type 35, the winningest race car of all time, and sharing some of the love with the contemporary Divo. Though the Divo has no podium finishes to its name—Bugatti has little aspiration to stray onto the track, it seems—the fellows at Molsheim got the all-wheel-drive, 1480-hp Divo together with its distant ancestor on the hallowed streets of Sicily for a seriously cool photoshoot.
The Type 35 forged its legacy in the 1920s on the Grand Prix circuit, most notably on the infamous serpentine roads of Sicily’s Targa Florio. Because of its narrow streets, unpredictable farm traffic, tight turns, and sheer cliffs, the Targa Florio earned a reputation as one of the toughest challenges for man and machine. It was one of the most dangerous races in motorsports, too, which led to officials shuttering the race after 1977. Bugatti’s Type 35 reigns in the annals of the Targa Florio along with Alfa Romeo’s 8C racers, Maserati’s Tipo 26, and Porsche’s 904, cars that developed their incredible prowess thanks to drivers and manufacturers willing to take on incredible risk.
Just how successful was Bugatti’s rollcage-less, skinny-tired, straight-eight monster? Type 35s of various iterations (they varied according to displacement and forced induction) won over 2000 races between 1924 and 1930. The one featured in these photos is a 1926 Type 35 T; the “T” designates it as a supercharged model tuned specifically for the Targa Florio. Its model year places it within the golden age of prewar Bugatti—Type 35s won the Targa Florio five years in a row, 1925 through 1929. The winning time in 1926? 7 hours, 20 minutes, and 45 seconds.
Key to the Type 35’s success was the French pilot Albert Divo, who turned from planes to earth-bound vehicles in the late 1920s and won two Targa Florios for Bugatti, one in 1928 and another in 1929—the marque’s fourth and fifth victories on that track. He stayed with Bugatti for another four years as a driver and developer.
The $5.5-million Divo is Bugatti’s 21st-century ode to Albert—and, of course, an attempt to tease a bit more cash from loyal Bugatti customers.
Though it packs the Chiron’s quad-turbocharged, 8.0-liter W-16, the Divo distinguishes itself by a much wider fixed wing and a host of upgrades and tweaks to make it more capable through the turns. With a maximum lateral acceleration of 1.6 g, and over 1000 pounds of downforce, the Divo is quite proficient at sticking to the road and giving drivers a workout.
Bugatti called up Le Mans champion—and factory test driver—Andy Wallace to pilot the slim Type 35 and the 6.61-foot-wide Divo around the extant parts of the Targa Florio. We’re guessing that Wallace took Sicily’s curves more conservatively that Mr. Divo once did, but that’s probably a wise choice.