Because while the British television show known for automotive hijinks raced cars against bobsleds on two occasions, Subaru decided to race a car on an Olympic bobsled track. The car in question was a WRX STI, piloted by Subaru rally driver Mark Higgins. Last year, he set a record for Subaru in the Isle of Man TT, but this stunt presented a completely different set of challenges.
One of those challenges was the width of the track. The St. Moritz bobsled run is among the most famous in the sport, and like all bobsled runs, it’s quite a bit narrower than the average racetrack. Even with its exterior mirrors removed, the WRX STI barely fit.
Consequently, the footage of Higgins’ run is impressive, but not exactly graceful. With its wheels wedged into the curved sides of the track, the car pinballs from side to side in the mother of all tank slappers. An impact with a wall leaves the STI battle scarred at the end. In between, Higgins had to negotiate a 180-degree corner called the “Horseshoe,” which required driving almost vertically on a wall of snow and ice.
While it looked mostly stock on the outside, Higgins’ STI got some key modifications. Its body was strengthened, and fitted with a roll cage and safety harness to protect the driver. Studded tires helped the car grip the slippery surface, which is ideal for bobsleds to glide over, but a nightmare for a car to drive over.
You won’t be able to get that kind of equipment on a stock WRX STI, which gets some styling, suspension, and other hardware tweaks for the 2018 model year. The STI and base WRX continue on the previous-generation Impreza platform for the new model year, following Subaru’s practice of staggering the launches of standard and performance versions of its compact car.