Images: MOTORSPORT AUTHORITY.
PRODRIVE – those extraordinary bunch of Rally specialists – recently were handed the task of prepping a Subaru WRX STI to go bobsledding.
Most of the boffins asked: “When?”. Answer: “As soon as!” A few others asked “Where?” Switzerland, of course! So they set to work on the modifications for the trusty Rex to race down the mecca for bobsledders in St. Moritz. Now bobsleds don’t need rear view mirrors, they said, so let’s get rid of those. What else? A reinforced front and rear frame, 8-millimeter studded tyres (outlawed by rally racing’s governing body), beefed up suspension parts that can withstand G forces meant for jet fighters, and a pilot equipped with an Alps-sized set of cojones.
According to Motor Authority’s AARON COLE: It’s hard to understate what the bobsled track in St. Moritz means to the winter Olympic sport. “It’s the oldest and only ‘natural’ course that’s ever hosted the Olympics. It’s carved out of the ground and was the first bobsled course in history. Minders groom the course at night and shape nearly 100 years of earth around the track. It feels like it’s alive.
“The St. Moritz bobsled track is the spiritual home for bobsled racing. Running a souped-up STI down the course is like jumping a monster truck over the 18th green at St. Andrews.”
Enter and stunt driver Mark Higgins from the Isle of Man (where else, you may well ask). It’s the same machine Mark used to set a record for a production car in a lap around the Isle of Man in 2014. He set another record around the Isle of Man in 2016 later in a different car built by ProDrive. He once slid a prototype Aston Martin DB10 around the Vatican City for the James Bond’s Spectre.
But the prospect of running a Subaru around a banked, 180-degree turn – appropriately named Horseshoe at a nearly vertical angle to the ground – had him placing his odds at 50/50 just before the stunt. “I didn’t know what’s going to happen, really,” the daredevil said.
Mark and his Subaru exited the final corner with two wheels on terra firma, teetering helplessly toward finishing the run on the driver’s side door, according to AARON COLE. As the roof mashed toward the right side of the wall, Mark righted the ship onto all four wheels to finish the corner, shiny side up, and cheers belting through the radio.
“I always knew I’d be a passenger on the exit, because it comes off quite sharp,” Mark Higgins said. “If we rattled down the side, it’s OK. When the car has been built like it has, I had all the confidence in the world I’d be OK.”
It was British bobsledder Ian Richardson who took three years to pull the stunt together and figure out “How in the bloody hell will it work?'”
Subaru signed on in January. Widening the track by XX centimetres was a breeze compared to the paperwork – for example, Higgins’ car couldn’t exceed a decibel limit imposed by the town.
“I think it’s fair to say that this is the first time in living memory someone has even tried anything like this,” Richardson said. An understatement, if there ever was one!