Amidst a field of CART rockets and Group C screamers, the Subaru Impreza looks fairly mild. What it might lack in presence it makes up for with a staggering amount of performance and an exceptionally talented driver behind the wheel. Keeping Subaru’s sports car segment interesting, Mark Higgins took this wild WRX STI to the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed with the intention of being the fastest machine through the timed section of the course. The Subaru lacked the figures that the winning cars had this year, so Higgins had to put on a gutsy performance to fight.
Higgins’ exploits at the Isle of Man have made him an internet superstar, and the few members of the motorsports community who didn’t know him prior to this year’s Goodwood event are now on a first-name basis with the guy. His heroic driving is only complimented by the nutty Impreza, tuned by Prodrive and named the WRX STI Type RA NBR, which he uses to scythe up the lengthy driveway in about the time it takes to say the vehicle’s entire name.
Prodrive tuned the 2.0-liter engine to spit out 600 horsepower with the help of a new crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, and a raucous exhaust. Port-fuel injectors from McLaren, who also provides the ECU, means the blown EJ20 gets all the fuel it needs, and they map to head lifting—not detonation. The Garrett turbocharger uses a pneumatic wastegate to control boost, and with it Higgins has the option of choosing 550 horsepower, 575 horsepower, or 600 horsepower depending on the grip available.
Without any interior to slow its acceleration and big slicks to neatly transfer that grunt to the pavement, the NBR blasts up and down through the trick gearbox—which is technically a h-pattern but, thanks to an electronic selector, is shifted rapidly via paddles.
Much more than just a dragster, the Subaru’s dry-sumped engine remains lubricated as Higgins puts on the most entertaining display of tire scrubbing seen since Alonso ?t=2m7s”>lifted his Renault’s wheels a decade ago. That sort of response comes from a dipped production shell fitted with an FIA-spec cage and supports at the suspension pickup points and down through to the crossmember. These additions make the shell five times stiffer than the road car.
The nifty DRS-style system raises or lowers the wing in 20 milliseconds and gives Higgins the balance between grip in the corner and a little less drag on the straighter sections of the track. Going up against a Penske Indycar and a Group C Jag, it needed all the acceleration it could get. Higgins and his Subaru were eventually beaten by those two thoroughbreds, but just barely. Had Higgins not dropped two wheels in the early stages of his run, he might’ve been able to win, but considering the circumstances, it’s only seems natural that he’d make a quick trip through the dirt.