Though the event tends to put the bikers in the limelight, the number of certifiable drivers that flock to this event must number in the hundreds. Perhaps one of the crazier entrants this year is Subaru’s Mark Higgins who is no stranger to pushing to the absolute limits on narrow city streets where there is no margin for error.
Though he’s gotten away with a few massive slides and somehow hasn’t killed himself, he’s still out to set remarkable times at the Isle of Man. In 2014, Higgins took three tries to get his best time of 19 minutes and 15 seconds, averaging 117.5 mph per hour around the course. This record lap was achieved with a stock STi with the addition of a racing seat, a roll cage, custom shocks, springs and a modified exhaust.
Aided by a EKG-style graphic in the top-left corner as well as a G-meter, there are a few measurements that allow the viewer to get a sense of how difficult this lap is for the driver. Anytime one hits 150 mph through the middle of a dense, residential section, the utmost concentration is required. That concentration is worth a premium whenever the car leaves the ground, or the tires begin to slide, as Higgins found out in 2011 when he narrowly avoided what could have easily been a fatal crash in one of the fastest sections of the course.
This time, Higgins takes that treacherous section, the bottom of Bray Hill, with a little care and consideration, making sure not to upset the car on the bump. Leaving the city center, the road opens up into a haunting flat-out section where Higgins stays remarkably calm; his heart rate only just hit 145 bpm after the nose lifts at 168 mph. Though the corners here are visible all the way through, the narrow road and immense speed requires a lot of precision, minor lifts and early throttle application.
The process only gets tougher when the corners cannot be seen through, or the intermittent shade prevents him from getting a clear read of the course. His increase in heart rate through these sections suggest this to be true, but oddly, that rate never rises above 165 bpm. Incredibly, his heart rate actually lessens on the “straighter” sections where he’s able to get a breath, despite the fact he averages somewhere around 150 mph through these sections.
Towards the latter half of the 22-minute run, Higgins begins to throw in the odd flick of opposite lock, since his tires begin to fade, but only once does he nearly run off the road. The remainder of his drive is the work of a virtuoso; perfectly clipping each apex and flirting with the edge of the road on every exit. In fact, the amount of space he puts between himself and some of the unyielding walls couldn’t fit a few magazines back-to-back. Either the man is absolutely fearless, incredibly fit, slightly crazy or a combination of them all.