TWO LEGENDS REUNITED.
RACING DRIVER PADDY HOPKIRK GETS BACK IN A CLASSIC MINI.
Paddy Hopkirk’s against-to-odds win at the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally transformed him into the UK’s most celebrated rally driver and propelled the classic Mini to the status of motor-sport icon. Today – at the age of 87 – Paddy is just as passionate about rally driving as ever, so has headed back to Monaco to once again take on the winding roads of the Monte Carlo circuit in a classic Mini.
Paddy’s 1964 race came at a time when automobile manufacturers across the world used rally sport as a stage for presenting their models. This resulted in vehicles from different weight and performance classes competing against each other with a handicap formula providing appropriate compensation when allocating points.
In the winter of 1964, Hopkirk and his English co-pilot Harry Liddon chose Minsk to start the Monte Carlo Rally, which at that time set off from nine different European cities.
Once in France, Swedish driver Bo Ljungfeldt and his Ford Falcon became Paddy’s main competition, eventually culminating in a showdown on the Col de Turini. The previous day, heavy snow had coated the route, significantly slowing down more powerful and heavier vehicles, however this wasn’t the case for the little challenger. According to Hopkirk: “The Mini performed particularly well going downhill […] so that we were able make good anything we lost going uphill when we were driving downhill.”
At the finishing line, it was a while before all the times had been compared and all the points totted up. However, ultimately the classic Mini was awarded its first victory at the Monte Carlo Rally.
The surprising victory won acclaim worldwide, and feverish celebrations followed in the United Kingdom. The classic MINI became a motor-sport legend and Paddy Hopkirk shot to overnight fame as the United Kingdom’s most illustrious rally driver. After the winner’s podium ceremony, driver and vehicle returned to the United Kingdom where they starred in the immensely popular TV show of the time, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Fans, celebrities and even the British Government sent telegrams to convey their congratulations. Hopkirk’s most treasured memorabilia is an autograph card from the Beatles with the message: “Now you are one of us, Paddy!”
And now, 56 years later, Paddy has once again taken to the steep slopes and winding roads of Monte Carlo, proving that the classic Mini is just as up for the challenge as it was over half a century ago.
The Mini was a very advanced motor car. Its front-wheel drive and the transversely mounted engine at the front presented significant advantages, just like the fact that the car was small given that the roads had lots of bends and were narrow,” explains Paddy as he recalls his greatest triumph.
Today, Paddy’s classic Mini is styled in a livery of British Racing Green, with his name and the number 37 adorning the side – a throwback to his number in the 1964 race.
Before the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, Paddy was already able to look back on an impressive career in which he’d won the Circuit of Ireland five time, as well as attracting attention at the Tulip Rally in the Netherlands, the Austrian Alpine Rally, and the Safari Rally.
In 1968, Paddy Hopkirk highlighted his reputation as a fair sportsman and gentleman in the London-Sydney Marathon when he and his co-pilot Tony Nash stopped their Austin, which was in the lead, in order to rescue a team from their burning car that had been involved in a serious accident.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Paddy Hopkirk retired from professional rallying and built up a career importing automobiles to his homeland of Northern Ireland. He was also involved in the relaunch of the MINI brand as a consultant to the BMW Group. Today, the veteran rally driver engages in a wealth of charity activities, such as work as a road-safety ambassador for the organisation IAM RoadSmart as well as supporting WheelPower, an association that promotes wheelchair sport. In 2016, Paddy Hopkirk received the award of Member of the Order of the British Empire from Princess Anne.