Mark Higgins drives a Subaru WRX STI down the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic bobsled run. And yes. There is a crash…
You’ve got to hand it to Mark Higgins. The man clearly has no fear of death.
This, after all, is a gentleman who last year set the new four-wheel lap record around the Isle of Man TT in a 550bhp Time Attack-spec Subaru WRX, his 17m 35.139s run breaking the 2014 record he’d previously set by almost two minutes. He’s been crowned British Rally Champion three times in ‘97, ‘05 and ‘06, and has spent his leisure time as stunt double for Daniel Craig in the James Bond film Spectre. Let’s just say the iron-testicled Brit doesn’t blanche at too many challenges…
You’d think then that driving a two-year old Subaru WRX STI – the very car that broke the Isle of Man record in 2014 – down the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic bobsled run would be a piece of the proverbial for such a man. Turns out not, Higgins himself rating his chances of success as closer to ’50:50’.
As a mere mortal whose innards turn to quivering jelly at the thought of such a venture, I can see his point. The 1.07-mile (1.72km) run at St Moritz is the oldest in the world, opening for competition in 1904 some 14 years after the sport of bobsledding was created. Its northern most point rises to 6076ft, the course dropping almost 426ft through turns that bobsleds can hit at up to 135kph, and unleash up to 4.5g on its occupants. If that’s not terrifying enough, the fastest corner on the course – the dreaded Horse Shoe – needs to be taken at a precise speed: anything below 29mph (c46kph) and the Subaru will tip over; anything above 34mph (c55kph), and the WRX will jump the course.
Moreover, St. Moritz-Celerina is the only bobsled run in the world that doesn’t have artificial cooling system or concrete crash barriers, meaning there’s little to stop the Subaru creaming out of the course other than rapidly melting ice.
Enter Prodrive, archetypes behind the World Rally Championship title runs of Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg, and who spent just two weeks modifying the WRX with a roll cage, revised suspension, and a crap-load of protective steel buttressing to protect the lower bodywork. Oh, and winter tyres with 400 tungsten lugs apiece installed to counter quick load transfers on the way down. The result, aside from a huge amount of pin-balling? A crash. No, seriously, check 1m 30s.
Amazing that the obviously damaged Subaru and the rattled Higgins was still able to make another run. Hats off to you Mr Higgins.