The engines roar, pushing the rev limiters to their limits. When the light turns green, the racecars accelerate at full chat, abandon their racing line, and seek out a gap in the fray. One of the vehicles on this day is a Bugatti EB 110 SC, one of only two Bugatti EB 110 racecars to ever have been officially constructed. The Bugatti lines up for the two-hour race in Dijon on June 9, 1996, sporting the number 18. It gets off to a great start and works its way up the field. Unfortunately, it was its last ever race.
Behind the wheel of the super sports car was the Monegasque businessman and racecar driver Gildo Pallanca-Pastor. Extraordinarily, at 29-years of age, he was one of the youngest entrants and also the owner of the Monaco Racing Team, for which the EB 110 SC was competing. Even then, this was an exceptional vehicle, one that really stood out in comparison to the other racecars. In 2021, the EB 110 celebrates its 30th anniversary.
The famous brand founded by Ettore Bugatti temporarily came to the end of the road in 1963, but was brought back to life in the late 1980s by Italian enthusiast Romano Artioli. In 1987, he bought the trademark rights and became Chair of Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. On September 15, 1990, Artioli officially opened a new and pioneering factory in Campogalliano. A year later on September 15, 1991, which would have been Ettore Bugatti’s 110th birthday, Artioli unveiled the most modern and most advanced super sports car of its time – the EB 110.
The coupe with a 3.5-liter V12 engine, four turbochargers, all-wheel drive, and a lightweight carbon monocoque caused quite a stir 30 years ago. The engine delivers power of up to 610 PS and accelerates smoothly up to its top speed – a high 218 mph, which was a world record for a production sports car. But Artioli wanted more – he wanted to see Bugatti back on the racetrack. “We thought motorsport was crucial for a brand like Bugatti,” he once said.
Only Two EB 110 Racecars Officially Built by Bugatti
In addition to the EB 110 GT and the 110 Super Sport, two official factory racecars boasting up to 700 PS were produced at the workshop. The first of these, a blue EB 110 LM, entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1994. Driven by Alain Cudini, Eric Helary and Jen-Christophe Bouillon, the car ran as high as the top 10, before first a series of turbocharger failures and then a crash sidelined the team. But the team’s efforts did catch the attention of Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, who was interested in technology, the brand, and the vehicles.
In March 1995, he set a speed record on ice in a production-based EB 110 Super Sport. But he was actually more interested in entering official races, so he ordered a racecar from Bugatti at the end of 1994, to participate in the IMSA series in the USA and in other endurance races for 1995.
The EB 110 Sport Competizione (SC) was developed within the short timeframe of just six months – weight-reduced, reconceptualized, and incredibly fast. There were plans to produce three vehicles, but by June 1995 only one had been made due to financial difficulties and supplier issues.
It was with this vehicle that Gildo Pallanca-Pastor entered IMSA races and participated in the BPR Global GT Series, an international racing series designed for the top production-based super sports cars. The EB 110 SC made its North American debut at the June 1995 Watkins Glen WSC GT race with Pallanca-Pastor and former Formula One driver Patrick Tambay taking 5th place in the GTS-1 category.
Next up was the Sear Point round where Pallanca-Pastor drove the Bugatti solo to a 6th place finish.
Up to this point the EB 110 SC had performed well, but spare parts became ever more rare as the market for super sports cars began to collapse. As a result, demand for Bugatti fell, the financial liabilities accrued, and the suppliers withheld their parts. When Bugatti began to experience problems with its suppliers and Artioli was no longer able to pay them, the production plant was closed on September 15, 1995, and the EB 110 SC racecar, waiting to be serviced there, became trapped and was provisionally confiscated.
However, Pallanca-Pastor succeeded in extracting the EB 110 SC from the bankruptcy assets in time to enter the car for the Febraury 3–4 running of the 24 Hours of Daytona. At Daytona, Pallanca-Pastor was partnered by Phil Hill’s son Derek, as well as Olivier Grouillard. The team qualified in 21st position and ran as high as 7th overall before electrical problems took them out after 7 hours. The team then returned to Europe to focus on the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Pallanca-Pastor’s preparations included the races in Dijon, France, on June 8 and 9. The Bugatti scored a strong fourth place during qualifying, and in the first race Pallanca-Pastor even managed to move up a spot into third place. Gildo Pallanca-Pastor was satisfied with his performance and was already looking forward to the next race. But soon after the start, during the second lap, he collided with another entrant and the race was over for him – the silver Bugatti failed to make it to the finishing line. A lack of spare parts meant the mechanics were unable to repair the car in time, so the EB 110 Sport Competizione also missed out on competing in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, which started just a week later.
This brought to an abrupt end the short motorsport career of the last factory racecar built by Bugatti to date. But this rare racecar survived and was maintained and looked after by its erstwhile buyer in the subsequent years without competing in any races. After a few years, Gildo Pallanca-Pastor sold the Sport Competizione to a Bugatti enthusiast. And now, 25 years after its last race and 30 years since its basis was unveiled, this rare piece returned to Dijon for a photoshoot and to relive a small slice of its all too brief glory.