*We're almost to our penultimate destination: Malin's Head and Banba's Crown.
Day two (rally day three) presented us with the expected Irish weather, overcast and drizzly, which would turn into outright downpours during parts of the drive. Our goal today was Malin Head/Banba's Crown in County Donegal, 261.6 miles away. Brian's and my ride for the most of the day was the Works MINI. I had Brian drive first, as I was intent on breaking whatever pattern was possibly in the making. Our MINIs got in line behind MTM guru Gerard's MINI One, and we began a very "spirited drive," to quote Gerard. At first there were several Minis in queue on the road to Castlebar and Foxford, but Gerard's driving style (flat out) and the obviously more powerful modern MINIs were too much for the older vehicles. Gerard swore that his 90-bhp MINI One had nothing more than an aftermarket exhaust, and we had no reason not to believe him. We asked about his previous rallying experience, and he alluded to "doing things" in the past. They must have been some things, because his rallying ability might give even Paddy Hopkirk a run for his money. If we hadn't been in the 200-bhp Works MINI, we would have seriously struggled to keep up.
But we were driving the Works car, which has a 37-bhp bump over the 163-bhp Cooper S. Torque also moves up from 155 lb-ft at 4000 rpm to 177 lb-ft, also at 4000 rpm. The Works package (it can be retrofitted to existing Cooper Ss) is centered around an enhanced Eaton supercharger with specially coated vanes that generate increased flow pressure. The blower also has a new pulley design, allowing the unit to spin at higher rpm for greater power output. A performance-modified head replaces the stock one; it has improved port flow and can withstand the greater compression and heat produced by the supercharger. A reprogrammed ECU is included as well; combustion airflow, fueling and spark advance have been optimized for better throttle response and torque accessibility. The performance graph clearly illustrates this improvement. The torque curve is smoother and the power curve continues climbing all the way to redline.
*The last gathering of Minis at the White Horse Hotel in Derry, North Ireland.
The package also contains a cat-back stainless-steel sport exhaust, featuring a parallel-flow low-backpressure system, snarky-looking twin chrome exhaust tips and a decidedly deep-throated rumble. Visually, the only indication that you're driving the Works version is a small, tasteful Works badge on the rear decklid. Pop the hood, however, and the valve cover and the silver intercooler surround practically shout that this is a modified car.
Following (actually chasing is the more appropriate word) Gerard gave us endless opportunities to explore the MINI Cooper S Works' enhanced performance. From the moment you roll off the line, the powerband's bump up is immediately apparent. Where the Cooper S lags in the lower- to mid-rpm range, the Works version zips on past to achieve maximum pulling power at 4000 rpm. There are no dips, no dead spots, just pure, sweet acceleration. The package is well worth the $4,500 MSRP (installation not included). The six-speed manual gearbox is the same as the one on the Cooper S, which also contributed the suspension and brake systems. Each dealt with the increased power as though they were originally designed with the Works package in mind-quite a testament to the Cooper S's handling characteristics. Not once did the Works MINI feel as though it was at the edge of control, and we were really pushing it.