The Harewood speed Hillclimb
The italics are theirs. The speed was mostly the Subaru's, with some help, and without some of the stability control, dialed down with a tap on the console button.
From Armathwaite, our clutch of BRZs--three blue, one white, and a chase Audi or two--took off for a full day of country roads, and some of the more spectacular corners of England, not quite barreling from the Lake District to the Yorkshire Dales, making exactly a beeline for Harewood Hall. A beeline being the most circuitous route between two points, we looped around several hatless small towns at a pace that felt like we were destroying land-speed records with steely gazes alone.
But it was all optics, all the psychology of densely wooded paths and winding, wet pavement lined with rocks just inches away from the BRZ's mirrors. We must be going 70 mph, 80 mph? No, just barely under 40 mph, the legal limit in this shire, sire.
That explained our late arrival, just 15 minutes left under the time limit, before lunch was ended at Harewood House, a magnificent heap owned by the Duke of Devonshire, built (the house, not the Duke) in the 1700s on sugar money. The house, one of many houses of the Duke's, puts the vast fortunes still in place in the aristocracy in Great Britain in proper scale. Even so, the nut required to maintain these estates means many have been turned over to the National Trust, while others have opened in part or in all to the public.
Harewood House is in the halfway camp--parking lots are tucked away discreetly behind a hedge, with the stately visage of the house left unbroken, its gardens host to daily tours, most of its rooms cordoned off along with untold art treasures.
It's all fabulous, to a point. In our crowd, the real attraction lies across the street, in some fallow fields, at a local venue dubbed the Harewood speed Hillclimb. In retrospect, it's the best way we can think of to tour the Dales in compact, concise form--with all the sheep edited out.
Instead, you get laconic corner workers who set minute lap times in their own Formula Fords, and imminent threats of rain, while you learn this technical little course. The record's barely 50 seconds, but some cars just aren't suited to the deep esses or the gradual ascent through a very tight 90-degree right-hander; even a Nissan GT-R's too fat, we're told.
The BRZ adapts well, though more torque wouldn't hurt its case at all. It's at home in an autocross environment, and once you tap the stability control into sport mode, there's enough throttle-steer available to cure the brief bouts of understeer. It's all about momentum, you realize, through the most difficult stretch preceding that big right-hander; I try it three different ways before settling on a ham-fisted, first-gear downshift as one way to get through it with some speed, if somewhat less dignity.
Maybe it'd be different if I had that 50-second, record-setting lapper--or something like a 700-horsepower Subaru WRX, another Hillclimb favorite. But then, those stone barns that narrow the track to just 12 feet apart at one pass might seem a little too close for comfort.
Hills climbed, tires abraded, we pulled in not long before dark at the Devonshire Arms, a former military barracks turned tea hotel, next door to the ruins of Bolton Abbey--one of the churches destroyed by Henry VIII in a fit of political pique. I'm mildly surprised by two things: the Anglican-American Subaru PR man has made no connection between the state of the abbey and the state of his cars, and that the dainty yellow sewing bench in my dainty little room has the fortitude to hold me up through a few hours of video editing and occasional narcolepsy. The jet lag hurts by now.
And, still, no hat.