Irish fundraisers drive over 15,000km in 228 hours

Wicklow natives went from Dublin to southeast Russia as part of the Mongol Rally

Two Co Wicklow men drove more than 15,000km in 228 hours - travelling from Dublin to southeast Russia - as part of an effort to raise money for charity.

Craig O'Rourke (30) and Ronan O'Neill (30) passed through 14 different countries in a 1992 Toyota Starlet while they competed in the annual Mongol Rally, which concluded in the city of Ulan-Ude.

The men worked as a team - named Straight Sideways - which has so far raised more than €8,000 for Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, a children’s cancer charity .

The participants in the rally do not have to follow a set route and unlike many mainstream rallies, are provided no support which leaves the drivers to fend for themselves in often difficult conditions.


“It was epic,” said Mr O’Rourke after the journey. “I think we bit off more than we realised, but we’ve seen stuff you just can’t believe.”

Mr O’Rourke was entered by his girlfriend as a 30th birthday present, with his long-time friend Mr O’Neill offering to accompany him on the trip.

‘Odd tiff’

They split the driving responsibilities equally, and claim to only have had “the odd tiff” throughout the lengthy journey.

“We only got through the final border because we paid a guy to give us his space in the queue, otherwise we could have been there for 48 hours. It was a lesson different cultures and borders - and bribery,” said Mr O’Rourke.

"It got serious when we arrived in Turkey too, getting there after the coup. We just wanted to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. I think Iran might have been difficult for some of the others as well, but it was a great one for us, because they love the Irish. Conor McGregor was all the border guards wanted to talk about."

The Mongol Rally refers to itself as “the greatest driving adventure in the world” and one of its rules is that the car in which you compete must be “small and rubbish”.

Mr O’Rourke said the Starlet “never once gave up on them”, and that he and Mr O’Neill planned to pass it on to a “worthy team” for next year.

“We made sure the car was totally correct when we got it. We’ll mentor them on everything and help them with anything they need,” he said. “It’ll do the same route again, raising money for the same charity. That’s never been done before.”

*The Straight Sideways's fundraising page can be found here