In 1990, legendary rally Tony Pond became the first man to lap the Isle of Man TT course at over 100 mph in a car. The vehicle of choice for this 22 minute lap was a Rover 827 Vitesse. That record stood until Subaru USA teamed up with another Manx-based rally champion, Mark Higgins. In 2011, the record tumbled and the first sub-20 minute lap was registered.
In 2014, Higgins smashed his own record in little more than a road going Impreza WRX STI. The only modifications were a roll cage, competition spec seats and uprated springs and dampers. And a louder exhaust so spectators and residents could hear him coming. This year, Subaru USA decided to get serious and enlisted the help of race engineering experts Prodrive.
Together, they created a 550bhp dedicated island racer. The engine is a 2 litre unit based around WRC technology. The drivetrain has ratios designed specifically for the full-on, flat-out nature of the Snaefell Mountain circuit. You can’t miss the massive carbon fibre rear wing. It’s also active, which means that Higgins can trigger a low drag mode on the long, high speed straights.
On Saturday, Higgins blew his existing lap record to smithereens. He posted an incredible average speed of 126.971mph, setting a time of 17 minutes 49 seconds. In near perfect conditions yesterday (Tuesday), Higgins shaved a further 14 seconds from that he previous best lap. He covered the 37.73 miles in 17min 35.139sec, which equates to an average speed of 128.730mph around the 37.73-mile circuit.
The biggest problem Higgins faced so far has been flies. He told Manx Radio “The conditions were great – the only problem I had was in the last five or six miles when I couldn’t see for flies on the windscreen. That made things a bit difficult in the last sector, but I can’t really complain because the bike riders have them on their visors all the time.”
Subaru USA are reportedly pulling together video footage of the record attempt, which will be uploaded with a full in-car video of the hot lap. In the meantime, you can check out this video from Prodrive which gives a flavour of the sheer speed and astonishing talent of local hero Higgins.
This very special WRX STI is set for a further outing on Friday.