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Following in Portago?s Tracks: Mark Higgins Takes On the Olympia Bobsled Run?in a Car!

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Following in Portago?s Tracks: Mark Higgins Takes On the Olympia Bobsled Run?in a Car! Following in Portago?s Tracks: Mark Higgins Takes On the Olympia Bobsled Run?in a Car!

Following in Portago?s Tracks: Mark Higgins Takes On the Olympia Bobsled Run?in a Car!






Mark Higgins is not the first auto racer to bomb down Saint Moritz?s Olympia Bob Run. At the 1957 FIBT World Championships, a preternaturally talented, perilously reckless sporting polymath named Alfonso de Portago won a bronze medal in the two-man bobsled event, after having nearly nabbed third in the same event during the 1956 Winter Olympics at Cortina d’Ampezzo. Not long after his descent from Saint Moritz to Celerina on the icy track, in May 1957, the Spanish marquis entered his first Mille Miglia. He did not live to see the end of it.
Fourteen years after Portago?s death, Higgins was born on a verdant, motorsport-crazy rock in the Irish Sea. And though he now lives in Wales, perhaps his greatest international fame has come not through his rallying exploits, nor via his stunt work in James Bond films, but for his balls-out laps of the Snaefell Mountain Course on his native Isle of Man. Higgins and Subaru are taking at least a year off from the grand TT-related PR stunts, but when somebody had the wild-hair idea to drive a car down the Olympia Bob Run, Subaru dragged Higgins?s 2014 IoM record car out of storage. The company then sent it to Prodrive for a crash refit in an effort to help the largely stock STI withstand forces inherent in launching a car down a narrow ice canyon.

Said canyon is an anomaly in the world of bobsledding. Modern courses are built of concrete with built-in refrigeration to keep the racing surface frozen. The Olympia run, one of the earliest in the world, and heir to the original Swiss mountain path blazed by drunken Brits, is?by a quirk of grand European tradition?reconstructed every year by the same Italian family. As such, it differs slightly each season, making year-over-year course record keeping impossible. A win at Saint Moritz is prestigious, naturally, but like the course itself, it?s ephemeral, existing only in the context of a single winter. Construction begins in December, the track opens in early January, and the bobsled season ends at the beginning of March. Subaru, essentially, served as this year?s vanguard demolition crew, widening the track to handle the extra width of an automobile.
Unfortunately, a bridge over the course at Tree Corner meant that Higgins couldn?t make the full run to the finish line, leaving the corner named for Portago unreachable. The abutments were simply too closely spaced to fit the STI through. Instead, Higgins would pull out before Shamrock, owing to the spot?s location next to the road down the mountain, then turn around and drive back up.

Since the whole project took shape over a quick three months, and the largely stock 2014 Isle of Man record car already had a cage, Subaru settled on the old time-attack machine as a basis for its unconventional snowmobile. Prodrive had only to fit stiffer springs to handle the corner-entry load at Horse-Shoe, reinforce the corners of the car in anticipation of inevitable contact with ice walls, and install a muffler (Isle of M...
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Following in Portago?s Tracks: Mark Higgins Takes On the Olympia Bobsled Run?in a Car! Following in Portago?s Tracks: Mark Higgins Takes On the Olympia Bobsled Run?in a Car!

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Source of news: caranddriver
Source of publication: 15-03-2017 21:29
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