Catching air in the Subaru BRZ on the Isle of Man
Centered in the Irish Sea lies the Isle of Man, a land of tranquil green hills, charming small towns and narrow country roads. One would think such a locale would be the perfect escape to find peace and serenity, only you'd be wrong. Dead wrong.
Each spring the island transforms to host what may well be the world's deadliest and most thrilling motorcycle race, the Tourist Trophy, featuring 38 miles of those bumpy, undulating roads lined with ancient stone walls, mature trees and more blind corners than any racer could memorize. Thrilling because any tourist can ride the course themselves as fast as they can -- and many don't live to tell the tale. To date, 237 racers have met their end here, and perhaps ten times as many tourists have. The exact number is hard to pin as the severely injured are airlifted to Britain, their eventual death only tallied as an accident on the island. Police mark the scenes of these extreme accidents with bright yellow paint for future riders to take note, and take caution.
Earlier this month, Subaru invited a few journalists to drive the course in the Subaru BRZ -- a rare opportunity to run the closed TT course, without limits. The only instruction came from Mark Higgins, Isle of Man native, multiple rally champion, and current holder of the four wheel TT course record.
Higgins had just returned from Tokyo where he was stunt driving for the upcoming James Bond film. Soon he would depart again to drive for the next "Fast & Furious" installment. Talking us through a low speed drive of the course the night before, Higgins explained the unique challenges of each section, as if we could remember these 38 miles, including when and how unlucky racers lost their lives at nearly every major turn. Avoiding terms like "accident" or "death," Higgins would gently say someone had "a moment" here and "took down a telephone pole, whose wires then got the next rider by the neck."
Sensing our growing anxiety about our lives, his next warning came as "Miss this next turn here and at least you'll land in the pub."
Before putting your foot down on the TT course, you might think Subaru would give each driver some time to get accustomed to the BRZ. None was offered. When my time arrived, I climbed behind the wheel at the starting line, jacked on adrenaline, and let it rip, hoping for no special "moments."