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Video: this is the best onboard footage you’ll see this year
Sit down and gawp at Mark Higgins’ incredibly ballsy 128.7mph lap around the Isle of Man
There are times in life when you’ve just got to shut up, sit tight and admire someone’s talent. Now is one of those times.
If you press the play icon above, you’ll witness a man called Mark sit behind the wheel of a rather special Subaru WRX STI and steer it with such skill and deftness he obliterates a lap record. But not any lap record; it’s the Snaefell Mountain Course lap record – the infamous and incredibly dangerous 37.7 mile Isle of Man TT circuit.
Thanks to a trick, purpose-built Subaru from Prodrive – the brains behind a run of WRC wins – three-time British Rally champion Mark Higgins smashed his own Manx TT course lap record from earlier in the week with a time of 17m 25.139s. That works out at an average speed of 128.730mph. On a course, that’s pretty much all blind, incredibly uneven and with absolutely no room for error. So, we’ll just let that sink in for a bit.
The Manx native was at full-throttle for 80 per cent of the time as he skittered across the narrow public roads, through villages and over kerbs at over 160mph. It’s a scary place, and one that has sadly claimed the lives of 252 people over the years (four this year).
In 2011 and 2014 Mark navigated the 37.7-mile road course, normally associated with superbikes, at an average of 115.4mph (including his now infamous 150mph tank-slapper) and 117.5mph respectively in what was essentially a stock 300bhp WRX STI, with a roll cage and tougher brakes and suspension fitted. So to go faster this year, and nudge the 130mph barrier, he needed something a bit more… robust.
It’s a $700,000 super-Scooby designed specifically for the TT circuit and tailored to Higgins’ requirements. Because it needn’t comply with FIA rules for any particular formula, the donor car is a US-spec WRX STI transplanted with the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from Prodrive’s old WRC car, but turned up to 600bhp and 590lb ft of torque – enough for 0-62mph in 2.6 seconds and an 180mph top speed.
The gearbox alone, a Xtrac six-speed sequential capable of 20ms shifts, is worth £40,000 while the suspension is WRC-spec but set lower and mounted next to Dunlop Maxx touring car slicks. Oh, and a huge wing complete with a hydraulic DRS system that flattens it out on the high-speed sections of the course – saving around 40bhp in drag at the 180mph top speed.
So if there’s one thing you do today, we strongly advise that you take 20 minutes out, put in your headphones and have your eyes widened at the sheer commitment of Higgins’ incredibly committed lap as he talks you around the island. Mark, Top Gear salutes you.