I had never met Frédéric before. I knew nothing of his driving ability or of his desire for self-preservation. The first few laps were positively mortifying. By about the third or fourth lap, it was pretty clear that Frédéric is a very competent racer and knows this particular Bugatti extremely well. My fear reluctantly gave way to trust, in the same way you come to terms with a roller coaster, which is to say you know intellectually nothing is going to go wrong, but you’re scared to death anyway.
After several exciting laps in which Frédéric passes car after car in this friendly track event, the session comes to an end. I crawl out, feeling like I had just spent an hour doing an intense upper body workout. Later I learn that Mr. Frédéric Novo is not only an excellent driver but is also one of France’s most renowned Bugatti experts. In fact, all the Bugattis present today belong to Frédéric’s clients.
I must admit that before this day, I had never been a big fan of pre-war cars. Sure, I love the looks of a BMW 328 Mille Miglia or an Alfa Romeo 8C of that period, but I never imagined that the drive would excite me. How wrong I was! Everything we love about sports cars from the ‘60s or ‘70s is amplified several times in a pre-war sports car – the connection with the road, the smells, the sounds, the materials. The experience is raw and pure. Even as a casual observer, the mere presence of these Bugattis is unrivaled. Seeing and hearing an entire row of blue Bugattis winding through the autumn country roads in Champagne is a hair-raising experience.
I am addicted! I now find myself lusting after a Bugatti, preferably with the patina of proper use and maybe even some paint flaking off here and there. I want the rush of sliding it on the track. I want a pair of leather goggles and a leather helmet and the wind and rain hitting my face as I drive the Bugatti through the damp countryside. Thanks Frédéric! As they say, the first one is always free.