*From Banba's Crown one can see all of Malin Head.
The roads to Malin Head from Westport were even narrower, twistier and more undulating than the ones we drove the day before. Or at least they seemed that way, but then again, I may have been influenced by the weather; it was raining so hard that God had to have left the bathtub water running overnight. And we were driving as though the devil himself were chasing us. We flew down one one-and-a-half-lane road after another at speeds that no sane person would consider. Several of the newer MINIs that were with our group eventually gave up, as the pace was just too demanding (and exhausting) for them to maintain. When I wasn't driving-and when the rain chanced to let up-I watched the picturesque countryside scroll by, replete with thatched-roof cottages, green valleys and more sheep than I've ever seen in my life. Our route took us up through County Sligo to Sligo Bay and the city of Sligo itself; then it was north, past Donegal Bay and into the wilds of The Rosses before heading east to Letterkenny and then north alongside Lough Swilly to our penultimate destination: Malin Head and Banba's Crown.
*The Works: The valve cover and intercooler surround denote the status of the MINI Cooper S Works.
*The Works: The valve cover and intercooler surround denote the status of the MINI Cooper
We made it! If nothing else, the view from Banba's Crown alone was worth the long drive. Windswept, stark, desolate, and isolated are adjectives that leap to mind when gazing out across the northern-most point on Eire. The parking lot at the top is small, yet we were able to stuff quite a few Minis/MINIs into the area. As we wandered around the old WWII lookout tower and bunkers, various rally participants came and went, rejoicing in their almost finish of the event. For we were not quite yet finished. The last stop on the route was Derry in Northern Ireland, where the awards ceremony and end-of-the rally celebration awaited us. We had another 42 miles to go before we partied down for the night at the White Horse Hotel. And what a party; there were raffles, awards, gifts, presentations, dancing, laughing and, of course, drinking. I may not have consumed any Guinness (confession: I don't like beer/ale/stout/whatever), but the rally celebrants lifted enough pints to fulfill my obligations many times over. They had reason to celebrate; this was the fifth run of the Head to Head Adventure, and these seasoned veterans had covered 611.7 miles over some of the most demanding roads in Ireland in three long days. Well done.
*The Works package includes an enhanced supercharger, modified head, reprogrammed ECU and hi-po exhaust system.
*The Works package includes an enhanced supercharger, modified head, reprogrammed ECU and
The next morning saw our group of six in our three MINIs on the road to Dublin. Brian and I were given the MINI One to pilot, which was fine with us as we figured the drive down into County Derry would be a leisurely one. Boyo, were we wrong. The pubs in Dublin must have been calling Michael's name (or Gerard was a very bad influence), for he led our small band on a blisteringly fast dash into the city. We were pleasantly surprised by how well the MINI One drove. We obviously couldn't outpower or outrun the Works MINI, but it held its own against the 115-bhp MINI Cooper, thanks to its 103 lb-ft of torque (the Cooper outputs 110 lb-ft). It also has better seats than the other two MINIs: less spine-distorting lumbar support and more lateral and thigh support.