The Japanese car maker has provided British rally driver Mark Higgins with an STI at the event in recent years, and this year it has sought help from its old World Rally Championship (WRC) partner Prodrive. This is to ensure the 2016 car beats the current record, which is a lap time of 19min 15sec, set in an older WRX STI in 2014 (see video below).
The new pictures come less than four weeks before the 2016 TT commences, and were taken during recent testing on the Isle of Man course itself. Subaru had to contend with heavy rain and cold air temperatures on the island during the tests, but to stand a chance of setting a new record, Higgins and his team will be hoping for better conditions.
“We are excited to be back and running on the Isle of Man TT course,” said Subaru America’s Communications boss, Dominick Infante. “We have previously run the TT Course in near-stock Subaru WRX STIs, but this year we set out to design the ultimate WRX STI for this circuit.”
No details have been released about the new car, and Prodrive has yet to comment, but previous images suggest that it has received aerodynamic and suspension upgrades, as well as a stripped-out interior and slick tyres.
Prodrive will most likely have dedicated a large percentage of its support to fine-tuning chassis settings. If the 2016 car is like the 2014 model, it won’t have received any engine modifications, but it may get a more free-breathing exhaust.
That means that like the regular car, it will produce about 296bhp and 300lb ft of torque. However, stickier tyres, a fixed rear wing, and a more aggressive spring and damper set-up should ensure Higgins’s car is significantly more agile.
For Higgins to beat his record 2014 lap time, he’ll have to average more than 117.5mph over the 37.7-mile TT road course. His run will take place at some point during the two-week event, which is held from 28 May to 10 June.
2014 lap record attempt
Prodrive and Subaru last worked together in 2008, when an 18-year relationship came to an end after Subaru withdrew from the WRC. The partnership won three drivers’ and three manufacturers' titles with world-class drivers including Colin McRae, Richard Burns, and Petter Solberg.
Don’t expect this year’s tie-up to lead to a new assault on the WRC, though. Paul Tunnicliffe, managing director of Subaru importer IM Group, told Autocar in a recent interview that “those days are long gone, killed by CO2 emissions and taxation, among other things”.
Subaru has also provided Team BMR with Levorg estates to compete in this year’s British Touring Car Championship. The outfit struggled at the opening round at Brands Hatch last weekend but expects to make swift progress as it gets to grips with the new cars.
Sam Sheehan and Cameron Tait