“A warrior of a car”: Two men drove a €500 hatchback from Dublin to Mongolia for charity
Published 11/08/2016 | 18:58
Available for free: 1992 Toyota Starlet, several previous owners, 15,000 fresh miles on the clock and the smell of two very tired Irish men who drove all the way from Dublin to Mongolia.
What car would you choose if you were taking on 'the greatest motoring adventure on the planet?'
A luxurious jeep or perhaps a fancy sports car... or, if you're anything like Craig O'Rourke and Ronan O'Neill from Wicklow, you'd choose a tiny Toyota Starlet you bought for just €500.
The two men took on the Mongol Rally, where you drive all the way from London to Mongolia, in a hatchback normally reserved for quick jaunts to the shops.
They left Dublin on July 16 and finished the race on Thursday, August 11. They travelled over 15,00km and were driving approximately 228 hours before they passed the finishing line.
Mongul Rally cry
This crazy endurance adventure only has a couple of rules - 1. You must complete the journey in a farcically small car and 2. You must raise at least €1,000 for charity.
These rules were no issue for the lads.
They bought a Toyota Starlet for just €500 from DoneDeal and have already raised over €8,000 for Aoibheann's Pink Tie, a charity which help families who have been affected by cancer.
Sent by a loved one
When your girlfriend is buying you a ticket to Mongolia for your birthday 'present', it may be time to think about what she is hinting.
Craig was happy to ignore this, as he received entry to the Mongol Rally for his 30th birthday.
He knew there was only one person he was going to go with.
"I'm not sure if it was present or a hint, but when I decided to go I knew it was Ronan who would be going with me. We grew up near each other and he is the sort of person you want beside you when on an adventure," Craig told Independent.ie.
Start with a Starlet
After Ronan agreed to go, all that was left was to find a car that could handle the journey. A 1992 Toyota Starlet that had just passed its NCT was their next port of call.
They then got their friend, Declan Hendrick, to rally-proof the car.
Craig added: "We brought it down to our friend in Wexford who basically made it Mongolia-proof and he did an amazing job. We haven't even had a puncture, which is basically unheard of on this sort of journey.
"The car had just passed the NCT when we bought it, but we think we'll put it through again when we get back just for the laugh. I reckon it would pass. There is not even a rattle coming out of it."
When the pair left Dublin in the middle of July, they didn't know what to expect, but Craig said they were pleasantly surprised at how helpful everyone was along the way.
"It was a massive eyeopener to how friendly people can be. (People in places like) Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran were just incredible to us."
"Everywhere we went people were offering us places to stay and just being incredibly nice," Craig explained.
It wasn't all plain sailing (or driving rather), as the roads in Mongolia weren't overly luxurious.
"Driving through Mongolia was a little bit like driving through the Wicklow Mountains, minus the roads. It was rough going at times, but the Starlet never let us down. A warrior of a car."
The pair crossed the finish line after an incredibly strenuous eight hour wait at border control, but Craig maintains that it was worth every minute.
When asked 'would he do it again?', Craig responded with a laugh and said 'I don't think I could.'
They were the sixth team in and the first Irish team to cross the Mongol Rally 2016 finish line.
It could be you
They are now enjoying a little bit of luxury, taking in a small break in Siberia, before jetting home.
However, the Starlet is already on its way back to the emerald isle and if you think you have what it takes for the Mongul Rally, it could soon be yours.
Craig said: "If somebody can prove to us they're going to take on the race next year, then we'd be delighted to give them the Starlet for free and give them a few bits and pieces of advice.
"It runs perfectly, but it might not smell the best."
To give to Straight Sideways's Mongol Challenge click here.