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Rallying with Subaru on the Isle of Man

Jeff Glucker June 23, 2015 Featured, Hooniverse Goes To... 2 Comments

On a down day of racing at the Isle of Man, we trekked to the island nations interior. There we found a former air base that replaced its former glory with the sound of glorious engine noise. Subaru had brought along two very different examples of the fun that lies in store in its lineup.

First up was a mildly upgraded BRZ. The suspension was swapped out for a beefier setup while the wheels and tires were also given an upgrade. Inside, the car was stripped and caged, and a pair of racing seats were bolted in place.

In front of the car was a gravel autocross stage. A standard autocross stage can be entertaining, but a gravel one leads to slow-speed heroics. The BRZ wants to be sideways for nearly the entire thing, and it’s exceptionally easy to keep the car there. Of course, smooth is better here and that’s easier said than done. Still, it’s a stock BRZ engine so you’re not throwing too much power at a dynamic traction situation.

The gravel tarmac adventure was merely a warmup, however, for the start of the show. Subaru had brought out a slightly older Group R WRX STI Rally Car. This is essentially a stock machine that’s seen its interior guts replaced by racing bits, it’s suspension and brakes upgraded, and the transmission swapped out for a dog-leg unit. So when I say stock, I mostly mean the engine and the body… and that’s kind of it.

Riding shotgun with me would be Mark Higgins himself, which was good considering I’d never operated a vehicle with such a gearbox before. Oh and the owner of the car, a big British bloke with a bald head, was watching all of those in attendance fiddle with his not-inexpensive gearbox.

Regardless, you don’t shy away from a chance like this. Power: On. Engine: Start. Clutch: Out… Emotions: Pegged.

The clutch doesn’t want you hanging around. You get it in and out quickly, and it keeps the transmission howling away happily. The shifts are extremely quick and military precise. It’s still a bit of work though. When you approach a turn, you can’t simply bang in a 4-2 downshift. You’ll need to work down 4-3-2- before you’re through the turn and then back on the throttle.

Additionally, everything requires a good deal of effort. The steering is heavier than I expected, and the brakes are heavier still. Through that heft though comes feel… and there’s plenty of that. You can feel exactly what the front tires are doing through the steering wheel, and the brakes relay their limit to you quite clearly. As I said it’s work, but it’s like a group project and everyone’s an A+ student that’s talking to one another.

Each event that day was being timed. No, the various folks in attendance weren’t going to beat any figure that Higgins would’ve posted, but we were certainly interested in being faster than each other.

How’d I do? Second in the BRZ and first in the STI Rally Car… by a decent margin too.

[Disclaimer: Subaru brought me to the Isle of Man, and I’ll tell you more about that soon. Spoiler, it’s the craziest racing I’ve ever seen by a fair margin.]

  • Isle of Man. Two Subarus. I’m thrice jealous.

    • Jeff Glucker

      Well stay tuned… I’m cutting together more Isle of Man stuff. I rode shotgun in Higgins’ rally car on the Druidale stage. Then we also rode shotgun in a stock STI on the full Isle of Man TT course.