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Mark Higgins drives a WRX STI... down a bobsleigh run
Video: Watch Higgins take a breakneck bob run in a turbocharged Subaru
Well, this idea is clearly from the “Don’t ask ‘why?’ – ask ‘why not?’” school of thought. Have a watch and then read on to find out how Mark Higgins managed to live through it.
Mark Higgins – the instigator of ballistic laps at the Isle of Man, among other things – has now displayed his bravery (and perhaps a tenuous grip on sanity) with a barely held-together run down the Olympia bob run in St Moritz.
This is squarely in the ‘don’t try this at your local ski park’ territory, folks – unless you want to instantly and permanently dismantle your car – and your vital organs. And possibly your non-vital, but still quite handy, organs.
To stand up to the punishment, the STI – which had already proved its mettle by setting the course record on the Isle of Man TT loop in 2015 – underwent some serious modifications at the hands of Prodrive.
Even though the STI already had an FIA-spec roll cage and seat, Prodrive fitted special harnesses to ensure that Mark wouldn’t be hurt if the car rolled. And, judging by a few points in the video, that was a very real possibility. All the glass was replaced with race-ready plastic, which would stay in one piece in an impact – hopefully.
As you might expect, lots of bracing and reinforcing went on behind the scenes. It wasn’t only for any untoward impacts, however – just running the course would introduce enough force through the standard WRX’s body to bend and distort the monocoque. And that’s no slight on the WRX, by the way – it’d bend almost any unprepared car.
Extra bumpers and scratch plates were originally fitted to try and stave off the worst of the damage as the STI pinballed its way down the bob run. They were almost immediately torn off the car.
Prodrive fitted special anti-puncture tyres that cost about £550 each, despite only being 135mm wide (about half of the width of a modern performance road tyre). As thin as they may be, each tyre is fitted with 400 7mm-long tungsten carbide studs. Finally. the tyres were inflated to about 50psi so they wouldn’t deflect and deform as much when undergoing the extreme loads that the bob run would inflict.
Unsurprisingly, the springs and shocks needed a lot of attention – the adjustable dampers were turned up to Spinal Tap levels, and the springs were replaced with units that are 50 per cent stiffer than the ones used in Higgins’ Isle of Man lap.
And, in spite of all of Prodrive’s hard work and Higgins’ considerable driving talent, he still only made it down by the skin of his teeth.
So, what do you think? Should this be a Winter X-Games event next year?