Each summer, a small island marooned in the middle off the Irish Sea is transformed into a floating racetrack, a place of pilgrimage for adrenaline junkies and speed demons alike. With the simple addition of two letters, the sleepy, leafy lanes of the Isle of Man morph into an infamously unforgiving colossus of a racetrack. It is here where the most fearless petrol-heads on the planet trade blows at over 130mph in an epic struggle to land the ultimate prize – the Tourist Trophy. But this is no summer holiday; it’s the Isle of Man TT.
Famed as a motorcycle racing Mecca, the TT is no longer exclusively the reserve of speed on two-wheels. Back in 2011, Subaru took on the fabled 37-mile course with a near-stock Subaru WRX STI, setting an average lap time of 115.36mph. Three years later, the Japanese marque was back for more, this time completing the circuit in a blistering 19 mins 15 secs at an astonishing average speed of 117.51mph through the island’s rolling valleys and chocolate box villages.
For the 2016 TT, Subaru will return once more, this time equipped with a very special one-off WRX STI that’s engineered specifically to cater for the demands of the TT course.
This exclusive time attack car has been produced by Subaru’s STI performance arm in partnership with long-time rallying cohorts Prodrive. It’s a combination with real pedigree; the Subaru-Prodrive duo boasts no fewer than three World Rally Championship Manufacturers’ titles and three Drivers’ crowns in its ample trophy cabinet. Piloting the Prodrive/STI-prepared machine will be rally veteran Mark Higgins, the man behind the wheel for both of Subaru’s previous record-breaking runs.
Although official stats are yet to surface, expect the Prodrive team to have coaxed some extra clout out of the WRX STI’s standard 300bhp 2.4 litre engine. Subaru sources also hint at heavy modifications in the suspension and handling departments so as to maximise pace through the TT’s devilishly twisty public roads and constantly changing asphalt surfaces.
The bespoke Subaru WRX STI time attack will hit the track in time for the 2016 Isle of Man TT, which runs from the 28th May to the 10th June. Another record-breaking Manx masterclass beckons.