Autoweek again has a MINI/Mini story gracing the front page of their website and featured in their latest issue:
“We have a sport in Ireland called tarmac rallying, and the races used to start on a Thursday and run right through to a Tuesday with some overnight stops,” Gerard O’Leary says. “I remember being on the side of a mountain with my dad at about three in the morning. I have a lasting impression to this day, a picture in my head of this thing, this glare of light coming from a distance, the whine of the straight-cut gears and the flashes of light from the spot lamps and sparks coming off the car.
“It was Paddy Hopkirk in his Mini,” O’Leary says. “I can still almost smell the Castrol in that night air. I’ve loved Minis ever since.”
O’Leary owns and operates a “specialist Mini garage” in County Cork. He is talking to us following the awards banquet for the fifth annual Mizen Head to Malin Head rally hosted by the Irish Mini Owners Club. The rally, where no times are kept and the object is fun, fellowship and to finish, is run on a route O’Leary mapped out to include some of those same roads Hopkirk negotiated nearly 40 years ago.
There is just one requirement: You must drive a Mini. Eighty cars entered this year’s event, May 1-3, on a course that travels from the southern-most point in Ireland to the country’s northern-most tip. Along the way you pass some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable.
…Our invitation came with the added incentive of driving a spiced-up John Cooper Works Mini, fresh from the Cooper shop near London.
Two other cars from which to choose were along for the fun besides the Works Mini: A base Cooper and a Mini One, the absolute bottom-end stripper and a model not sold in the United States. Spending most of our time between the Works and the Cooper, our affections were torn. The power of the Works was immediately missed when we switched out to the Cooper with its 115 hp; on exceedingly rough roads that make up the bulk of the rally we appreciated the compliant suspension on the Cooper. On the rough pavement, driving at what O’Leary called a “spirited” pace (Ireland has a 60-mph national speed limit, but it seems only farm implements and sheep obey it), the Works car’s firm suspension-which gets no upgrade over the Cooper S model- coupled with 17-inch run-flat tires allow-ed too many of those bumps to come through our seats.
It’s a great article for those of us that have been involved in our own MINI Rally’s. It’s also fantastic to see coverage an event like this in such a large US magazine as Autoweek. They’ve seemingly been smitten by the new MINI since it was released lat year and now with a MCS in the magazine’s longterm fleet their love of all things MINI seems to continue to grow.