Lapping The Isle Of Man TT Course In The 2013 Subaru BRZ

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Updated: Upon further consultation with Simon Crellin of the Isle of Man TT press office and Subaru of America's Dominick Infante, some of the statistics acquired from my previous sources have been called into question.  Where there is a conflict between official TT facts and figures not available at the time of original publication, and the previous sources, the official information has been substituted.

Among the thatch-roofed cottages and ancient stone walls of the Isle of Man lie tortuous streets that have, for more than 100 years, played home to one of the most famous motorcycle races ever: the TT, the Tourist Trophy. Over the past century, a vocabulary has developed to handle its darker side.

Used not by TT event staff, marshals, or Isle of Man police, but by some of the fans and spectators, it is a sort of coping mechanism--a series of euphemisms--to address the uncomfortable topic of injury and death. It's a simple code, to match the simple finality of a run gone wrong on the Snaefell Mountain Course. When a rider--typically a member of the public, a fan, among those that take to the public roads that compose the course between race sessions during TT week--crashes hard and dies on the route, the coded question asks, "Is it messy?"

There's no OCD to the question; it's a way of asking if there's "human debris" (another, somewhat coarse, coping phrase) on the course. If there is, the resulting delay can be expected to be half an hour, minimum, as authorities document the scene and clean up the "mess."

It's assumed the motorcycle(s) are destroyed. The high speeds of the mountain section rarely result in minor mishaps, especially on Mad Sunday. To date, 237 racers have died during events on the Snaefell Mountain Course (including the Manx Grand Prix as well as the TT), but the mountain has claimed even more of the civilian population--dead, maimed or severely injured. This year, five amateurs met their ends (ed. note--not "about a dozen" as provisionally figured by the previous sources), but--thankfully--no racers died.

Morbid, this business of death, and almost completely anachronistic, seeming more a thing of the racing culture of the 1950s than of 2012. Really, it is. The TT is a holdover, a final remnant, a fossil from the earliest days of racing, when the machines themselves were ill-understood and the people that piloted them were daring, bold, and almost always anticipating death.

Today, with modern superbikes capable of 200-plus-mph on course and average lap speeds over 130 mph, the equipment has changed, but the ethos hasn't. Death is still an accepted part of the equation for the men (and occasional women) who seek the limits on the Isle of Man.

Isle of Man 2013 Subaru BRZ drive

Isle of Man 2013 Subaru BRZ drive

Enlarge Photo
All of this is to say: when I slipped behind the wheel of a 2013 Subaru BRZ with nary a helmet, fire suit, or other non-production-car safety device and only a low-speed ride around the course in a van on Mad Sunday for preparation, I was aware of the risks ahead.

Fortunately, we weren't going to be chasing the four-wheeled lap record set by Mark Higgins last year in a WRX STI, though he would be leading us around the course. Though it was no comfort against thoughts of houses and walls abutting the narrow roads, Sir Jackie Stewart was in the VIP area, looking on as I and four others set out to navigate the course in American-spec Subaru BRZs. Oh, and Tiff Needell of racing fame and the BBC's Fifth Gear was bringing up the rear.

Gassing it hard down the main straight, past the pits and gravity-feed fuel cans, the first real obstacle is Bray Hill, a 150-plus mph section for the bikes and Higgins' STI last year--the scene of the infamous "moment"--and still a good 100-mph run through for the moderated BRZ pack. A sharp dip compresses the suspension, then ejects the car up the hill as the road slithers between houses, churches, and spectators.

Isle of Man 2013 Subaru BRZ drive

Isle of Man 2013 Subaru BRZ drive

Enlarge Photo
Then it's on through more towns and villages, often flat-out in top gear, through corners like "Ballascary" and  over yumps and jumps like Ballaugh Bridge, where I saw the undercarriage of the car ahead before launching into the air myself, up into the mountains where the road opens into wide, high-speed curves, and back down again, incredible vistas blocked by the tunnel vision necessary to keep from launching over the edge or into the mountain itself.

Jacked with adrenaline, almost out-of-body with the rush of threading the four-wheeled needle through the tight and undulating terrain, it was with surprise that we came to a stop about two-thirds of the way through the lap: yellow flags were out for a sidecar motorcycle that had crashed on the last lap before we had set off.

The pilot of the motorcycle, John Holden, was injured, and airlifted to a hospital on the island. His sidecar rider, Andrew Winkle, needed a ride back to the paddock, so naturally, I offered my passenger seat. Winkle hopped in, shunning the seat belt, and we set off again, now with some lively commentary. Despite Winkle's role as one of the crazy/brave/talented side car riders, he actually let out an excited whoo! each time the Subaru BRZ compressed, gripped, and scrabbled its way out of the high-speed corners on the mountain descent. Despite Holden's injury, Winkle appeared to be in good spirits--another testament to the attitude toward risk for riders of the Snaefell Mountain Course.

Arriving back at the finish line, the lap done, we convened in the paddock, chattering about the experience in something like post-coital euphoria. The BRZ had almost transparently filtered into the background during the run, its innate balance, calibrated controls, and willing Boxer engine enabling my complete focus on the task at hand. That kind of second-nature control of a car doesn't come easy, and speaks to the success of Subaru's engineers in designing what I consider to be the best $25,000 car (along with its FR-S cousin) an enthusiast can buy from a dealer today.

But that wasn't the end of our fun in the BRZ.

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Comments (52)
  1. Fantastic video, thanks. Love the hand-brake turn at 2:00 mark . . .


  3. Ive never read such ill informed rubbish in all my life " about a dozen amatuers have lost their lives" the actual number of fatalities over the entire 2 week event was 4. What utter crap journalism.

  4. As a Manx residence this article really angered me. Maybe you should get your facts right mate! Dozenz of Amateurs killed - please could you provide evidence of the dozens killed? I'm guessing the answer to that is not because dozens of amateurs were NOT killed. Have you ever been to Daytona week???? You've come over to our Island and done nothing but slate it. Don't bother coming again!

  5. Mr Ireson,
    I'm sorry but where the hell did you get your facts from? Dozens killed! I don't think so!! This is fabricated journalism at it's worst! I hope your proud of yourself.

  6. Can I strongly recommend that you withdraw and amend this article with immediate effect and rectify the gross inaccuracies within the text, such sensationalistic journalism is not only blatantly inaccurate it is also incredibly insensitive, and overall is insulting to both the TT races and the island in general!!

  7. If you don't count the ones flown off the island to die, I suppose you may be correct. I am only working with the numbers given to me by people very close to the government and event organization.

  8. And for what it's worth, I think the element of danger is part of what makes the event great. It's one of the last true open road races, like the Mille Miglia, Carrera Panamericana, etc. The riders openly acknowledge the danger and do not discount it. It's part of the experience. I simply addressed it head-on. Sorry if you don't care for the interpretation, but I stand by my take.

  9. Mr Ireson,

    The TT is not simply an event that is hosted on the Isle of Man. The TT is outside our doors, it is our commute to work.

    We talk about the TT for at least two weeks and more with our colleagues, family and friends. Twitter, Facebook and the Marshal's radios are alive with events, as they happen.

    This is not Disney, we do not massage our mortality rates. The IOM and the TT is run by elected greengrocers, charities, volunteer groups and people working a second job for the fortnight.

    It is clear you do not "get" this. The TT *is* the IOM. If there is a conspiracy, then 90,000 people are involved.

    You are either gullible in listening to your "sources" Mr Ireson, or you are a liar. Stop digging your hole

  10. Furthermore, residents drive past the scars in the road, see the chalk marks on the tarmac and think about the families of the victims when we pass the flowers of a crash site.

    We know when there are accidents, word is passed around within minutes. This is necessary because a single road closure can block access to a part of the Island, especially when there is a race going on.

    Stop disrespecting crash victims, their families and those of us who care about the IOM, the TT, the residents, the racers and the visitors.

    I strongly request you issue an apology, and possibly a retraction, for the first half of your article.

  11. It's not an interpretation it's total fabrication!

  12. Do you write for the daily mail?? You know nothing of the passion for the event but feel that you quote figures pulled from the air? The (poorly written) write up was supposed to be about a car but instead turned into more sensationialist crap. You should be ashamed.

  13. Absolute RUBBISH!!! Are you DRUNK???

  14. There are more comments in this thread
  15. What a load of crap, people aren't "flown off the island to die" idiot. Sensationalist tripe.

  16. Exactly. Flown off the Island for treatment at a specialist hospital, maybe.

  17. What an offensive article by a 'journalist' that can't be bothered to do any genuine research and fails to get many facts right. As for the speed of this lap I was in the little village of Kirk Michael when a very slow procession of these cars came through and if that is 'flat out in top gear' you don't want one of these cars!

  18. Well done Mr Ireson on an article that is full of inconsistency I also watched you as you travelled along the Manx roads at Kirk Michael and I’m sorry to inform you that the speed you were going was a rather slow 30mph give or take 2 mph this to me would say that the Subaru car that you were writing about was down on power and would not be a good buy. As for the elevated (Express) figures you put on the death toll is not correct your Government and Event contacts are not passing on the correct information you should of tried officials from the department of health who could of informed you in a correct manner and you would not be getting all this bab feed back on the TT races, the Isle of Man and Subaru

  19. who I would imagine will be suitably embarrassed be your article as I am.

  20. One more point I'd like to make, there were no TT rider deaths during either practise or racing this year, that would be 0...not 12. There were 4 on open public roads which were (I believe and stand to be corrected) all caused by human error...Frankly apart from the event gathering said bikers into the same location I don't see how you can blame the TT or the organisers for their actions, they have free will, they can ride like a tool wherever they just so happens they chose to do it here.

    Frankly its people like you driving your borrowed Subaru around the course on Mad Sunday that are exactly the sort of person that increases accidents on and around the course...

  21. Wow, this has to be the worst piece of journalism ever. Your facts are totally wrong! People are not flown of the island 'to die'. If they are ever transferred of the island it is to a specialist hospital for further treatment, or to a hospital nearer their family. Dan kneen and Simon Andrews both had heavy crashes during race week, and remained in the islands hospital until they were fit to be released. As for 12 deaths this year, you are an idiot. I would expect you to hand in your resignation after such cr*p journalism - a six year old could do better

  22. Mr Ireson,
    Your comments regarding the Isle of Man and the TT are nothing more than grossly inflammatory to a small but very proud nation and complete and utter LIES!!!
    Typical Journalist....don't let the TRUE facts and figures get in the way of what you think is a decent story!!!
    I hope your readers see you for what you are...A Lying Idiot!!!

  23. What a load of rubbish. Apart from the complete fabrication of the facts in this story you and other Scooby drivers behaved like a pack of idiots and you were bloody lucky you weren't one of the casualties. As for reaching phenomenal speeds, you conveniently forget that on one day all the cars were put off the course half way through because you were taking too long! 45 minutes to do a trip that would take half that time for someone on L plates!!!!!

  24. You REALLY REALLY do need to get your overblown journalistically inaccurate facts corrected....
    The actual total of deaths during the event this year was 5,none of these were racers and NONE were "flown home to die".
    As for your high speed Scooby laps I know people with 125cc motorbikes that circulate faster.Not only were you removed from the course in Ramsey because you were taking too long I seem to remember a Scooby breaking down at Ballig Bridge,some 7.5 miles into the course,what a great advert for the cars.
    I STRONGLY request that you publish an apology for your buffoonery and publish CORRECT statistics and in future do some RESEARCH...............


  26. What a load of misinformed chod... Obviously your little metal box has warped your mind...

    Next year can we have no more of this stupidity - I don't think I stand alone in saying that these 4-wheeled tinbox "parade" laps did nothing but anger the general community there, who had come to see motorcycle racing.

    Then to be followed by this drivel is simply an insult.

    Please, no more of this, we loose enough time for the real event as it is - I believe there are Rallies on the island for the bobble hatted community; take your toys and go and play in the mud!!!!

  27. Oops sorry Rick went to give the thumbs up to this and it went down instead and refuses to let me go thumbs up. Well said!

  28. Rick, What is the problem with the rallying community firstly? I have been the Isle of Man Rally Championship Junior Co Driver Champion 4 times and I find your comment hugely offensive. We are not a "Bobble hatted" community at all. We practive our driving safely on closed roads away from the public.

  29. Sorry no we dont "practice", we "carry out" our driving safely on closed roads.

  30. Typical crass, brash American, that posts articles without thought or accuracy. Next time you ride the TT course, please try it without the $25,000 four wheeled safety cage around you. Ireson, you *are* tiresome.

  31. "fly some of them off the island so they'll die in the uk?"
    As a fan of the TT for many years, it angers me that someone in a position of power can shovel completely made up facts about it. I've rarely if ever read such poor journalism. You really should get your facts straight before you start spouting off such rubbish.
    Oh, and don't forget that when you look up the real facts, that these have been spread over 100 years!
    Exceedingly disappointed that such lies can be spread like this.

  32. YOU sir, are a half wit. You know NOTHING of TT or the Isle of Man. Get back under your rock and think about this bullshit you dare to call journalism. Oh, and I wouldn't come back if I were you, you nasty, deluded little liar. If any readers wish to know the truth feel free to google the real stats.

  33. What an utter load of rubbish! Your figures and information are hugely wrong and you need to withdraw this report and maybe try re-writing with the correct information. No one is ever flown off this Island to "Die". Who did you get the overall figures from? Who ever it is is obviously not a fan of FACT. This whole article is just rubbish and has really cheesed me off. Its muppets like you that come over here that destroy the Island with false facts.

  34. You Sir, are a cretin. The figures you present are made up, your observations made through idiot-tinted lenses and, dear God, you travel all the way from the States to the Isle of Man, to the TT, to go round the world famous mountain a car. Shockingly bad journalism and apparently hugely poor decision making faculties. Americans wonder why Europeans purport intellectually superiority to them? This article will unfortunately be simply more ammunition to those who believe this to be true. Flown off the Island to die? You sir, are a cretin.

  35. Can only agree very strongly with the above comments. What utter tripe. No-one gets flown off the island to die!! In fact, you claim John Holden was flown off, he's still here!
    I am a competitor in motorsport (rallying), have passengered a sidecar and am involved with the TT. I do not recognise our event from anything you have written.
    Pure sensationalism and utter crap.
    The riders are almost as brave as the loved ones who wait at the Grandstand for them.
    The spectators who wipe themselves out bring nothing but a bad name to our sport and if we could stop them being dickheads on the road, we would. But their shocking riding is incidental to the event.

  36. I and many others are still waiting for a formal apology and amendment of this article Mr Ireson.

    You appear to have gone to ground on this now? should you choose to stand by this article I will be quite willing to contact Subaru's PR department to make them fully aware of your comments and also the press complaints authority.

    Over to you??

  37. He's probably been flown to Canada to die (of shame!)

  38. You claim effectively in excess of 2,370 civilian deaths in the approximate 100 years. ie. 24 deaths per year - this year I believe was 4, and I have no recollection of the figure being anywhere close to this in the previous 10 years. Where are you getting your figures from? This is sensationalist tripe.

  39. I like the TT and I like cars (and bikes), so while many TT spectators seemed less than happy about the delay caused by the Subaru joyrides, I fully understand that the organisers have to keep sponsors happy and that activities like this result in additional publicity for the TT and the Isle of Man.

    Normally, that's a good thing - but unfortunately not only is the article factually incorrect and very badly written (I am somewhat closely involved with the TT but you don't have to be to know a lot of the statements the author makes are untrue), it also contains some of the worst pictures I've ever seen in any kind of car or other magazine. Someone please take that copy of "HDR For Dummies" away from whoever did this. Jeebus wept...

  40. Well Mr Ireson we will soon see if your figures are based on information handed to you by the Government. I have forwarded a link to your drivel to the Motorsport Developement Team who organise the TT. I am sure they will be in touch soon either directly or via a lawyer. Never have I seen such rubbish in an article as yours. It must have been a struggle to come up with figures that bare no relation to any facts whatsoever to the truth as yours. As for flying people back home to die, well you should be ashamed of yourself. This shows a total lack of respect to those that have lost their lives, their famies and friends. I work at the local hospital that has to deal with these tragedies. We do not fly patients away unless they are stable.

  41. If that article was my work I'd be very, very embarrassed. I don't think I've ever seen such an example of lazy, sensationalist and just plain shoddy journalism.
    The whole piece is based on nothing more than complete fantasy & shows either extreme ignorance, stupidity or some kind of axe to grind.
    If you've ever done any other job than journalism then I'd go back to it because there is zero possibility of you doing a worse job than you do writing rubbish like this. If you know nothing - say nothing!

  42. Mr Ireson

    Please name the people that gave you your " facts. " The people you refer to as " amatuers " are actually local or visiting spectators. You will find amatuers at the Manx Grand Prix. Your article has to rank as probably the worst i have ever read with regards to the TT. Be ashamed Mr Ireson, be very ashamed.

  43. If you're so concerned about death, why not write an article on the numbers of civilians killed by America in the name of 'Liberation'.

  44. Re: "This year, five amateurs met their ends"

    I also object to the use of the term "Amateur" in the updated article. These deaths were people who visited the Isle of Man and were driving on public roads and not all were even on the TT Circuit. They were not racers and their deaths are just as tragic as if a professional rider had died during an official race.

  45. Well I see they have been in touch then and even though you still have a large amount of drivel in your piece I guess that is your oppinion and you have a right to that view no matter how illinformed it might be. You might also like to consider that Andy's woo's were not ones of joy, but after a high speed crash like Andy's they might have been ones of worry. Not trusting an idiot at the wheel that has no idea of where he was going is a good thing. It is a pity you have gone quiet and have not apologised for your actions to the families of the people who lost their lives.

  46. who wrote this article a complete cretten i think! i ve lived on the island my whole life , i ve nver herd some much ill informed crap in my life!

  47. What a coward - amend the article without any hint of an apology & still attempt to justify the original rubbish you wrote by hiding behind a "source" that you have made up & pretending that official statistics were not available at the time you wrote it. Very, Very poor journalism - I don't think I've ever seen worse. And for the record one of the five deaths was a local, nothing to do with the TT, just a road accident - how many people died on the roads in your country during the two weeks? No doubt you'll be too cowardly to answer or too thick to find out.

  48. I notice you claim that the actual "facts and figures" were not available at the time of the original article. The last death occurred on Monday June 4th, some four days before your article was published. In between times the facts were reported on all three of the island's radio stations & in all three of the island's newspapers - all correctly & all before your article. The TT employs a full time press officer whom you could have contacted at any time. Dress it up however you want it is just extremely poor and very lazy journalism & very very spineless that when presented with the facts you have made no apology, no admission of guilt just a very condescending update. You should be sacked immediately unless your employers are chinless too.

  49. I have just read this article. If i didn't think you actually mean't it i would have though it was a joke of some kind. you go on about how fast the car is, but when he came past us at Kirk Michael my lawn mover would have taken Douglas Road corner quicker lol...... And if i remember you got taken off the course at Ramsey for being to bloody slow lol.....

  50. Just to update you all, I contacted Subaru America about this article and sent them a link to it, I also pointed out that this gutterpress creature had been given ample opportunity to apologise but instead had chosen to stick his head in the sand.

    I also pointed out that he had effectively brought the Subaru name into dis-repute in this part of the world through association and that they should consider this with regards to damage to their reputation, and when deciding any level of relationship with him in the future.

    I have had a really nice reply from Subaru, they appear to be genuinely taking this seriously, they are promising to look into this, and that they'll be getting back in touch with me in due course.

  51. Top Man

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