Mini's 1964 Monte Carlo win celebrated

50th anniversary of the Mini's first win at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 with Paddy Hopkirk. Photo / Supplied
50th anniversary of the Mini's first win at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 with Paddy Hopkirk. Photo / Supplied

A bright moment in the history of the Mini has turned 50 this year.

The Mini Cooper's epic win at the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally driven by Irishman Paddy Hopkirk celebrates its golden anniversary in 2014.

Battling against icy weather and stiff competition from more powerful rivals, Hopkirk and co-driver Henry Liddon, managed to edge out a win in the famous race to the Mediteranian Principality.

This was not the Mini's first outing in the event. In 1963, Hopkirk finished first in class and third overall, making all the heavyweights sit up and take notice.

Taking what they had learned in 1963, the works Mini team had high hopes for 1964.

Following the tradition of the rally, all competing cars started from different points around Europe. However, where ever they started from, all competitors had to undertake the route over the French Alps, which featured the twists and turns of the Col de Turini trail. All cars would then complete a mad dash to Monte Carlo.

BMC sent three works Mini Coopers to contest the Monte. Hopkirk and Liddon , registration number 33 EJB, started from Minsk in Belarus. The second car, driven by Finnish driver Timo Makinen began from Olso, Norway, while the third car, driven by Rauno Aaltonen started from Paris.


Hopkirk's main competition came from Bo Ljungfeldt's V8 Ford Falcon. The combination of the Bo's straight line grunt and Hopkirks tight turns and handling meant in the closing stages of the Rally, both cars were at each other for the lead.

Hopkirk's advantage was in the tight corners and streets of Monte Carlo, where he held onto the lead, giving him the win by a small margin.

Overnight, Hopkirk and the Mini were thrust into the public eye. The British Government sent a congratulatory telegram to Hopkirk, as did The Beatles. The fab four praised the efforts of Hopkirk and Mini, sending signed photo which read, ''You are one of us now, Paddy.''

Wins at the Monte continued with Timo Makinen in 1965 and Rauno Aaltonen in 1967, rounding out a hat-trick for BMC and Cooper works.

In the aftermath of that first win, John Cooper worked Mini's became highly sought after and the two brands became forever linked in a partnership which continues today in the latest John Cooper Works variants of Mini, Countryman, Paceman, Coupe and Roadster models.

- NZ Herald

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