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Motorsport Moments – The Bugatti EB110, Daytona and the American Dream

29 January 2021

by Alex Easthope

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February, 1996. It’s early days in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and as mist and drizzle close in on the history-steeped Florida racetrack, the silver Bugatti EB110S of the young Monaco Racing Team is gaining serious ground…

At the Bugatti Automobili factory back in Campogalliano, Italy, this silver EB110S endurance racer was known by the ingegneri as ‘The American Dream’. Its development and programme of stateside races is being funded by the Monegasque businessman and keen racing driver Gildo Pallanca Pastor, all with the view to achieving his ultimate goal: competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Daytona is Gildo and his newly founded Monaco Racing Team’s greatest test thus far. Despite Bugatti’s spectacular bankruptcy and the subsequent lack of factory support, they are pressing on.

Joining Gildo on driving duties in this gruelling 24-hour marathon around the steep and bumpy Daytona banking are the Frenchman Olivier Grouillard and a young Derek Hill, son of the legendary American Formula 1 World Champion and three-time Le Mans-winner Phil Hill, who’s serving as Gildo’s team’s chief advisor.

“In these early hours of the race, with the inclement weather closing in, the EB110S’s four-wheel-drive system, which has miraculously been permitted to race, is paying dividends.”

The Grand Touring Supreme 1 (GTS-1) class in which the Bugatti is entered is a fiercely contested category, filled with Dodge Vipers, Chevrolet Camaros and Porsche 911 GT2s, all frantically steering clear of the much faster WSC prototypes. And in these early hours of the race, with the inclement weather closing in, the EB110S’s four-wheel-drive system, which has miraculously been permitted to race, is paying dividends.

In fact, by the third hour, Derek Hill has climbed to seventh overall in the 76-strong pack. “I noticed the Porsches were slipping and sliding and I started gobbling them up coming off the corners,” Derek Hill will later tell reporters. Alas, disaster will strike in hour seven when a gearbox failure caused by a meagre two-dollar part will put paid to the Bugatti’s race.

The American dream it will turn out not to be. But for Gildo, he will be sufficiently satisfied with his car’s pace and his team’s performance to greenlight his Le Mans attempt. Next stop: the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Photos courtesy of the Girardo & Co. Archive. Click here to discover more than three million motorsport images dating back to the 1970s.

 

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