We know you’d much prefer to watch the lap being driven, rather read about it, however since we’re still awaiting the official video, you’ll have to make do with the spectacular image above showing British Rally Champion Mark Higgins flying (literally) around the Isle of Man TT course in his production-spec Subaru WRX STI saloon.
The previous record was set by the late Tony Pond, who was the first driver to average more than 100 mph around the 37.8-mile course in a road car at the wheel of a Rover 827 Vitesse. 21 years later to the day Higgins smashed the record, posting a blistering lap time of 19 minutes and 56.7 seconds, which translates to an average speed of 113mph and a peak speed during the lap of 162 mph.
Mark says on his blog that it’s been a long time ambition to emulate Tony Pond’s famous lap of the TT from 1990 and he was delighted to smash the record on his first attempt last Monday.
You can listen to an interview with Mark, before and after his record-breaking run by visiting this link.
Before the lap, Mark told Chris Boyde of local radio station EnergyFM that he was uncertain about achieving the ‘ton’. After a flying start from Governor’s Bridge he was therefore expected to reach Glen Helen in 6 minutes to be on the schedule to match Pond’s long-standing record, however he blitzed that and passed the famous checkpoint in 4min 59.75sec at an average speed of 116.3mph.
By the time he’d reached the Bungalow in 16 minutes 10 seconds his average was up to 120.87 mph, however for the rapid descent down the Mountain, Mark admitted he was struggling with brake fade.
The TT event organisers gave Higgins just one lap to conduct his record attempt in the car, and there was no opportunity to carry out high-speed practice runs, so Mark struggled on with the brakes until he crossed the finish line just 19 minutes 56.67seconds after starting.
“In the end the lap was simply fantastic, and the WRX STI behaved impeccably,” explains Higgins. “That we managed to set such an impressive time at our first attempt is a great tribute to the Subaru, especially given that so few modifications have been made. The engine pulled incredibly strongly throughout and the cornering capability proved crucial on such a twisty, unforgiving course.”
“Setting the record was both the most exhilarating and the most frightening thing I have ever done,” explains Higgins, whose career as a driver in the British and World Rally Championships hasn’t exactly been short of excitement. “The rules allow for a flying start, so I crossed the line at 125mph. I then went down through the Bray Hill junction – normally taken at around 20mph – at over 150mph. Once that tricky section was out of the way I settled into the lap and quickly got used to the balance and sheer pace of the car.”
The outright lap record on the TT course was set in 2009 by John McGuinness on a Honda CBR1000RR ‘Fireblade’ motorcycle. McGuinness posted a time of 17 minutes and 12.3 seconds, equivalent to an average speed of 131mph, so less than 3 minutes faster than Higgins in his Subaru.
Back in 1990 a certain Carl Fogarty won the opening race of the Isle of Man TT Series riding a Honda Britain RC30. Fogarty averaged 118.35mph for the six-lap race, whilst later in the event the late Steve Hislop broke his own lap record with an incredible 122.63mph.
The WRX STI used for the record-breaking run was a standard Subaru production car, equipped with a 296 bhp Horizontally-Opposed Boxer engine, unmodified brake callipers and with road-legal Pirelli P Zero Trofeo tyres. Springs and dampers were adjusted to minimise any potential damage when the car encountering the various bumps and jumps at high-speed along the course.
In recognition of the speeds involved, and the fact that there are little or no crash barriers around most of the TT road circuit, the WRX STI was fitted with some essential safety enhancements. These included an MSA-specification T45 integrated roll cage, TRS race harnesses and a Lifeline extinguisher system. To help forewarn spectators of the presence of the oncoming car (as well as entertain them, no doubt!), the Subaru team also fitted the WRX STI with a high-decibel exhaust.
The WRX STI is currently available from Subaru dealers with free satellite navigation and a free power upgrade, taking the output to 315 bhp – which I’m sure Higgins would have welcomed, although not before upgrading those brakes…