The weather at the Isle of Man is predictably, unpredictable. One minute it’s sunshine, and if you’re really lucky, stays that way for a few hours—not for me. I saw but maybe two hours total, the rest was fog and rain for the duration of my stay. Now, this shouldn’t be a deterrent when considering that you’re in town for the famous Isle of Man TT race, an annual racing event geared for motorcyclists and one that always encounters wet weather. If you’re thinking, “What the hell is Super Street doing at a motorcycle race?”—well, I was only partially there for the bikes. I was sent more on a mission of faith, to take Subaru’s BRZ and go absolutely apeshit on the IOM’s public roads. Add in blinding fog, one lane roads meant for two-way traffic, wet line racing on a former WWII air field and trying to play catch-up with one of the UK’s most talented rally drivers (who also happens to be a native of the Isle of Man) and, well, that’s what you call “seat time” in a BRZ.
If you’re further confused as to why Subaru would even bring a few BRZs out to this part of the world, I must point out that it’s because of Subaru’s partnership with the Isle of Man TT, serving as the Official Car Partner of the race series. It was on the 37.75-mile stretch of (closed) road that the aforementioned driver, David Higgins, a member of Subaru’s Rally Team USA, became the first driver since Tony Pond in 1990 to complete the course, albeit in a lightly-prepped, US-spec 2011 STI. Higgins wound up setting a record time for a production car with 19:00.37 and a top speed of 162mph. Weather permitting, Subaru managed to convince the IOM TT officials to let us have one full run at the course, a rare opportunity for anyone to do—however, if a single drop of water hits the ground (ok, more like light drizzle), they cancel all racing activities for the day, including our run session (yes, we were scheduled to drive in between motorcycle heats). Ha, and they’re expecting us to keep up? No problem. All we had to do was pray for no rain.
After long transit times and a very restless night, our group headed out early to survey the IOM TT course in it entirety. While it had been quite dry the day before, that morning saw grey and dark skies with a hint of mist drawing downward. Not ideal conditions for driving but not a total loss either. The interesting thing about the IOM TT course is that it uses the island’s public roads, so in order to make your way up to the grandstands (or anywhere to be honest)—and also to accommodate locals—the track goes “cold” at various times and people are allowed to drive normally. We completed our initial demo lap around the island and then stopped off at the IOM TT’s main grandstand to take a look at how the event’s set up, look at competing teams’ pit areas and also to see if the rain would let up or worsen—of course, it started to rain. This called for a slight backup plan, so to keep us entertained, we went to our first ride-along session with Higgins, where we came face to face with his newly-prepped BRZ. By this point, we were far from where we began, much higher up in altitude and with it, torrential downpour—and wind, lots of it. That made for a very fun shotgun experience as things like rain and ‘limited traction’ don’t scare Higgins easily—my quick jaunt up and down the countryside took only a few minutes, but it was evident that this guy has earned his keep as a Subaru rally driver. Fast, very controlled, and this was just the beginning.
Although the weather continued to worsen, by no means did that suggest our day was over; the driving went on—we even sped up. We’d switch between standard public streets and when Higgins felt like it, he’d break off on various back roads where keeping the gas pedal down on the ground was a scary necessity. But this is where one starts to experience the greatness of the BRZ’s performance; the power from the FA20 is low but more than enough to take advantage of its superior handling. It’s evident that Subaru (and their partners over at Toyota) put a lot of love into it. We made a second stop at Jurby Airfield, located on the northern tip of IOM that was used by the Royal Air Force in WWII as a training base that’s since been converted into a motorcycle race track. We used Jurby as our playground for the rest of our afternoon. Once again, we were offered a few hot laps with Higgins, to which he unleashed all hell in his BRZ, sliding the car effortlessly through the course’s corners and generating blistering speeds down its straights. My turn at attacking the Jurby circuit wasn’t as mind-blowing in comparison, but I still had fun taking as many shots as possible to pretend I was getting close. To close the event out, we played follow the leader one last time through highly questionable downhill sprints where the fog was nearly impenetrable. Apparently it takes a massive set of balls to do what we did, and by no means are we encouraging any of you to do this anywhere at any time.
By the time we left the BRZs to rest, the rain had barely managed to stop, the pavement serving a stern reminder that I had unfinished business with the IOM TT course. It owes me a lap, which I fully intend on cashing in on someday.
Hot Stuff Coming Through!
The Isle of Man course is a playground within an existing community, using public roads as its surface. Signs are everywhere reminding you of the possible dangers, yet people still drive/ride very quickly here. Imagine if your neighborhood was set up like this!