Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

Mark Hig­gins will re­turn to the Isle of Man next week, when he starts test­ing a Pro­drive-pre­pared Subaru WRX STI for an­other TT course lap record.

The Manx­man’s at­tempt was an­nounced at a press con­fer­ence in Dou­glas last week.

Hig­gins broke Tony Pond’s 21-year-old lap record in 2011. He then re­turned to best his own time three years later.

Now James Bond’s stunt driver and Subaru Amer­ica have their eyes on a 120mph av­er­age for the 37.75 miles. They’ll get three fly­ing laps be­tween May 28-June 11 to give it a go.

Pond be­came the first driver to take a car around the cir­cuit at an av­er­age speed of more than 100mph – the late rally star man­aged 102.195mph in a pro­duc­tion-based Rover 827 Vitesse in 1990. Hig­gins low­ered Pondy’s 22m09s to 19m37s in 2011 be­fore go­ing 22 sec­onds faster in 2014. The record stands at 117.510mph.

Hig­gins will be look­ing at the first sub-19-minute lap on four wheels if he is go­ing to stand any chance of get­ting near a 120mph av­er­age.

For­tu­nately, he is com­ing with a slightly dif­fer­ent car to the near­stan­dard Subaru he used pre­vi­ously.

“The cars I drove for the last two at­tempts were fan­tas­tic,” Hig­gins told MN. “With just a lit­tle bit of work on the sus­pen­sion and safety equip­ment, it was great to achieve the lap times with what was pretty much a stan­dard road car. But this time the Subaru is based on a World Rally Car.”

Subaru Amer­ica has re­tained six­time World Rally cham­pion Pro­drive to work on the car, with ad­di­tional in­put from STI, Subaru’s own mo­tor­sport de­part­ment in Ja­pan.

The best Subaru brains in the world have come to­gether to pro­duce the ul­ti­mate WRX for the ul­ti­mate lap of ar­guably the ul­ti­mate track. So far, Hig­gins has driven the car on two air­fields: Tur­we­ston and Brunt­ingth­orpe – but next week he is head­ing home to the Isle of Man, to test on Manx roads for the first time. The team will close a 2.5-mile sec­tion of the is­land’s Round Ta­ble stage.

“The sys­tems checks I’ve done in the car have given me a rough idea of how the car may per­form,” said Hig­gins, “but it’s only next week that we’ll re­ally know what sort of per­for­mance is pos­si­ble. The road we are us­ing is a re­ally good stretch of rally stage with some re­ally high-speed cor­ners, we’ll see what’s what then.”

Af­ter that, the next time the triple Bri­tish Rally cham­pion will drive the car in anger will be as he heads across the start-fin­ish straight in Dou­glas, bound for Bray Hill at more than 160mph in early June.

Out on the faster sec­tions of the lap, Hig­gins pre­vi­ously maxed out at 164mph – he could be north of 170mph this time around.

“We should be look­ing at get­ting a bit more out of this year’s car,” said Hig­gins, “but at the same time, we’re do­ing this with­out tak­ing un­nec­es­sary risks.”

And that means a lift at the bot­tom of Bray Hill, a place where Hig­gins’ heart beats just a lit­tle faster fol­low­ing his 150mph mo­ment in 2011.

“Even be­fore that mo­ment I knew Bray Hill would be one of the trick­i­est parts of the lap,” Hig­gins said. “You drive down there at 30 or 40mph and noth­ing pre­pares you for what it’s go­ing to be like at 160. It’s flat on a bike, so I thought it would be the same in the car. Turns out I was wrong! It’s def­i­nitely a lift now – we’re go­ing to be sen­si­ble.”

Hig­gins won’t know ex­actly when he can drive his laps, that’s in the hands of the weather.

He added: “It’s quite tricky not know­ing ex­actly when you’re go­ing to get to go – but that’s what it’s like ev­ery year for the boys on the bikes, so you just have to get on with it. I’ll prob­a­bly do a few prac­tice laps on a bike my­self, just to re­mind my­self what the roads are look­ing like. Trou­ble is, the cir­cuit’s a liv­ing thing and it’s chang­ing all the time – you never get two laps iden­ti­cal and with it be­ing so long with hun­dreds of cor­ners, the per­fect lap is pretty much im­pos­si­ble. But we’ll give it a go.”

Hig­gins’ def­er­ence to the bikes is un­der­stand­able. Im­pres­sive as his 117mph av­er­age is, John Mcguin­ness still holds the out­right record at 132.701mph – that’s 17m03.567s for 37.75 miles on a Honda CBR1000RR last year.

Of­fi­cials at Rally Ar­gentina are con­fi­dent they can de­liver the kind of safe event needed to keep the South Amer­i­can event on the World Rally Cham­pi­onship cal­en­dar next year.

Ar­gentina and Rally Poland re­ceived a for­mal warn­ing for spec­ta­tor con­trol from the FIA last year – sim­i­lar is­sues this time around will re­sult in the ral­lies be­ing ejected from the cal­en­dar.

Six fans were in­jured when Hyundai driver Hay­den Pad­don rolled his i20 WRC on the Capilla del Monte to San Mar­cos stage in Ar­gentina last sea­son.

WRC safety del­e­gate Michele Mou­ton in­spected the Rally Ar­gentina route last month and forced a com­plete re­think of the leg two stages.

Gen­eral co­or­di­na­tor of the event David Eli said: “We had to make a com­pro­mise with this year’s rally, but we have to re­cover. We will im­ple­ment ar­eas closed to the pub­lic this year and we will in­form spec­ta­tors of pre­cise lo­ca­tions.”

Dr Jorge Ros­ales, pres­i­dent of Au­to­mo­bile Club Ar­gentina added: “We are work­ing hard with all par­ties to im­prove se­cu­rity this year. We worked with Michele Mou­ton to en­sure that peo­ple en­joy this event and the event con­tin­ues for many years.”

That ‘mo­ment’ on Bray Hill

Ar­gentina warn­ing

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