Top Gear Challenge : Race to Cork

After months of debating the best type of transport in Ireland and of
course chatting about the legendary show that is Top Gear, we (Lagan
Valley Explorer Scouts) decided to take the debate one step further
and run our own version of one of Top Gear’s races across a country.

The challenge was set; we would meet at McDonalds Sprucefield at 5am
on Saturday 27th June and see who would be the first team to arrive at
Cafe Hi, Merchants Quay Shopping Centre in Cork 250 miles away.

We had three teams:

Team 1, made up of Harriot, Alison and Mark went for the public
transport option, taking the bus to Dublin (no trains at 5am, shame!)
and then catching a train to Cork.

Team 2, made up of Warren, Clare and Pudz decided to fly however the
only flight they could get left from Dublin at 9 – so they to would
need to grab the bus to get that far.

Team 3, made up of myself, James, Stu and Hylands took 2 cars and
would drive the full way.

We then had three weeks of excitement, doubt, double checking routes
and talking big talk of who was going to lose.

It very quickly became 5am on 27th June and the race began, and this
is what happened.

I was in the Car Team.

Too much talking and eating of burgers meant we did not actually
realise 5am had passed and we set off, all be it 5 minutes late.
Straight away we had an advantage as we were rolling whereas the other
teams would have to wait 15 minutes on the bus, zero traffic at 5am
meant the drive was the most pleasurable I have ever taken added to
that the banter between the other car over the CB radio and the
banging tunes on the CD player I cannot think of a better way to

At 6am we had made great progress, I received a call from the two
teams on the bus who had just came past Newry but we had just zipped
through the toll road at Drogeda.

At 7am we had shot round the M50 in great time and where on the road
to cork, The other two teams had got off the bus and split up at the
airport with the Plane team checking in for their 9.00 flight and the
train team grabbing a cab across Dublin for their 8am train, this is
where (for them) the fun began !!

At around 7.10am I received a call from Warren, my brother in the
Plane team who informed me that Clare had forgot to print her boarding
card all was not lost though as the lovely girl at the check in desk
of (lets call them) Bryanair offered to reprint it for her for a mere
€40, what a lovely company to fly with!

Things were not running smoothly for the train team either, the bus
had came into Dublin 10 minutes late making it incredibly tight to get
the 8am train, the taxi agreed to zip across Dublin for them, getting
them into the station 6 minutes before the train was due to leave.
That however was not the end of their problems, their tickets had been
pre-booked and the reservation machine was not finding the tickets
against the credit card they had booked with, a long queue meant they
could miss the train.  They got sorted though with minutes to spare
and boarded the train just as it was about to leave.

With everyone now south of Dublin, adrenalin was starting to pump and
everyone was getting excited and concerned that the other teams would
arrive first.  At this time we spotted a sign by the side of the road
– CORK – 39KM, What? Really? Fantastic, we where defiantly going to

The phone call’s pretty much stopped at this stage, the plane team
were through security, the train team had boarded and we where very
close to Cork – the race was on big time.

We entered Cork city at around, 8.15 and began looking for the
shopping centre.  We parked up to asked a taxi driver who informed us
it was right behind us, a quick lap of the one way system we parked
and began to laugh hysterically (knowing the plane has not taken off
yet!)  At 8.35 we arrived at the cafe and won the race.

The next hour and a bit was pretty boring, we were waiting on the
plane team landing and checking in…… not wanting to let people
know we had won – I decided to update my facebook with ‘ flat tyre,
this could cost us the race!’ straight away Harriet texted me to laugh
(the joke is on you now Harry) at around 10.15 the Plane team checked
in again to say they had landed and were on route to the meeting
point, the race (or so they thought) was on again.

Sat in the Coffee store, two of my party had gone to cash machine and
I began to panic – the rules stated that all the team had to be
present when the 2nd team arrived to count as a victory, oh noes ! I
quickly rounded them up and we sat quietly in the corner waiting, I
could hear Pudsey from the plane team coming around the corner saying
(I think we have won ……….. oh f&*^$£^%£)

That was it, the car won, the plane came second and later the train
team came running in and lunch was on them !


We all left at 5am, checking into the end-zone at

Car 8.35am

Plane 10.35am

Train 10.55am


8 Comments on “Top Gear Challenge : Race to Cork”

  1. Andrew Gallagher says:

    Fun idea, but it was obvious that 5am was a bad choice of starting time. It was unfair that the plane people had to bus to Dublin – surely it would have been possible to organise it around an Aldergrove departure?

    I call for a rematch! ;-)

  2. The plane people actually set the depart time !

    I am happy for a rematch, maybe a place pulled out a hat somewhere in France !!

    Let make it happen Andrew !


  3. Did you have a rule that you were not allowed to exceed the speed limit? ;-)

    Anyway, the Top Gear challenges are very carefully picked so as to make them as exciting as possible. By contrast, I predicted your cars were going to win handsomely after reading about the 5am start. Too many motorways these days.

    Many years ago, in describing how small Ireland was to some foreign acquaintances, I declared that there were no two points on the island more than 8 hours drive apart. I doubt that figure has changed as motorway construction has been mostly in the east. Do a google maps search for “malin head to mizen head” and note the alternative routes proffered. Interesting, no?

  4. You pick the time and location, I will beat you in a car, any day any where !!



  5. Oh, you’re suggesting _I_ take public transport? Tut tut. ;-)

  6. Oops, you have to do “malin head to mizen head, cork” otherwise it gives you the wrong mizen head.

  7. guest says:

    it took you three hours and 35 minutes to get from sprucefield to cork city?

    what were you driving :S

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