Additional Photos by Isle of Man TT
Chances are you've never heard of the Isle of Man or know of its whereabouts. It's a tiny island (about 355 square miles) that's nestled in between England, Ireland, and Scotland. You can get there by ferry or a small propeller plane, and for 50 weeks out of the year, it's quiet and peaceful with only around 88,000 residents—many of whom don't live on the island full-time. Jeremy Clarkson has a huge estate there, which might be why the island has received some attention in recent years. However, its main attraction takes place every spring for two weeks when 40,000+ bike enthusiasts come from all around the world to watch the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT).
Since 1907, the TT is a motorcycle race that tests riders on the island's twisty, challenging, and unforgiving public roads. 200+ professional riders enter the most grueling test of their careers, averaging up to 130+mph through the entire 37.75-mile course with top speeds easily reaching 200 mph. If it sounds crazy, it's because it is! Nearly 250 people have lost their lives in TT history—in fact, two riders died this year.
So why does such a deadly race survive? It's hard to say. If the constant fatalities of TT happened on American soil, you can bet the race would have terminated decades ago. For competitors, they all wake up on race day knowing there's a good chance they could die or come home with permanent injuries. It's simply a way of life for these riders. They do it, not because they're insane, but because of their love for the sport.
The Isle of Man's treacherous roads and a TT rider's mentality are perhaps why a company like Subaru supports the race. Subaru has always backed rally programs in the past, putting its cars through the toughest road conditions known to man. The Isle of Man is just another channel to show the world what its brand and its cars are all about.
So when an invitation to make the 15+hour journey to Europe arrived in my inbox, it was a no-brainer to check out why Subaru jumped on board. In a matter of two days, I managed to ride shotgun with Mark Higgins in a bone-stock '15 STI pace car for a hot lap (similar car to what Mark set the record in '14 with an average speed of 117.510 mph) and also watch the Superbike record broken by John McGuinness on the last day of the TT race with an average speed of 132.701 mph. It was honestly an unreal experience to see the entire course at high speed. There are 264 different corners where any mistake could result in a collision with someone's house, a stone wall, telephone pole, or tree. In a car, the damage and pain in a crash are scary to think about. On a bike, well, there's no arguing why this is the most dangerous race in the world.
'15 Subaru WRX STI NR4 built by JRM
On our trip, it was the first time former British Rally Champion Mark Higgins shook down JRM's latest NR4-spec WRX STI production rally car. We were taken to one of the bumpiest stages of the Manx Rally called Druidale, where Mark tested the car and gave every journalist on our trip a ride-along. The car performed like a champ without any faults or hiccups, except us nearly losing our lunch a little bit…
By the Numbers
Number of bike enthusiasts who visit Isle of Man during race weeks.
Feet is the amount of elevation change during the race.
Number of corners. That's 1,584 corners during a complete six-lap race!
Riders who have been killed since 1907.
Miles per hour—the top speed ever registered set by James Hillier last June on a 300+hp supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2R.
Average miles per hour John McGuinness clocked in to win his 23rd TT victory and set a new record.
Average miles per hour Mark Higgins clocked last year in a '15 Subaru WRX STI.
Number of podium wins by John McGuinness. He is also 43 years old.
Miles is the length of the road course. 226.5 total miles in total for the six-lap race. In contrast, the Nordschleife track at Nürburgring is 12.9 miles.