Mini – winning the Monte Carlo Rally 40 years ago
It certainly was the sensation in the 1963/64 winter rally season: A small red David with a white roof proudly showed its tailpipe to all those ultra-powerful Goliaths, clinching overall victory in the Monte Carlo Rally. And in this 'big bang', the tiny little car immediately became a legend: Originally conceived as an inexpensive and economical means of transport, the Mini had been transformed into the hot-blooded Mini Cooper now clearly standing out as the 'small man’s sports car'. Wherever the Mini – either in standard trim, as the Cooper version, or in highly modified form – appeared at the start of a race, it was always good for a genuine surprise. Indeed, the Mini wrote many a headline in the world of rally racing, just like it made times more than difficult for the usual 'strong guys' on race circuits the world over. The 1960s, therefore, were the decade of the Mini, far beyond official races and competitive events alone. For even when the Mini started to feel keen competition on closed circuit tracks, there was still no other car in the market able to offer he same kind of sporting performance for so little money, providing outstanding driving pleasure within such compact dimensions.
Forty years on nothing has changed
The features which once took the Mini Cooper to victory in that historic race to Monaco remain the basic ingredients of the MINI Cooper today. With its compact exterior dimensions, the new (BMW) MINI Cooper simply whisks around corners, resting solidly on its wide track and long wheelbase. Indeed, this kind of driving behaviour clearly calls for sporting performance, the John Cooper Challenge Brand Trophy attracting an increasing number of motorsports aficionados particularly in Britain, the home country of the MINI. And like their fathers 40 years ago, many aspiring talents and up-and-coming racing drivers gain their first experience and bring home their first trophies at the wheel of a MINI.
In particular, however, every driver given the opportunity to take the wheel of a MINI will feel right away precisely why entering the Monte Carlo Rally would indeed be a wonderful experience. And nobody can express this feeling more appropriately than Rauno Aaltonen, the 'Flying Finn': "Both generations of the Mini clearly stand out from all other cars in precisely the same way. They are extremely agile and follow the steering immediately. Back then the Mini was a Princess, beautiful and full of character. In the meantime the Princess has grown up, and the new MINI has become a Queen!"
A small car coming out big: Mini and the Monte Carlo Rally
The Mini was simply perfect for rally racing right from the start, six works cars making their appearance in the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally just six months after the Mini had made its debut in the market. Private drivers entered six more of these brand-new, small but mighty performers. Back then, however, the newcomer was not yet particularly competitive, Riley/Jones finishing 23rd in the fastest Mini. A year later the small cars from Britain were not successful, either, none of the three works cars entered in the race reaching the finish line.
All this changed dramatically in 1962, when Rauno Aaltonen, the Flying Finn, entered the spectacular Rally for the first time at the wheel of a Mini Cooper. Unfortunately, this very nearly might have been his last Rally, too, with his car rolling over in an accident, landing on the roof and catching fire. Aaltonen just had a few seconds to get out before his Mini became a complete victim of the flames.
Only two other works Minis remained in the race, finishing the Rally as No 26 and 77. But two more names also appeared in the list of entrants, destined to hit the headlines in the not too distant future together with the MINI: This was the year in which Timo Mäkinen entered Monto Carlo the first time in a Mini Cooper, albeit as a private driver. And the Sunbeam Rapier finishing third overall was driven by an Irishman called Patrick Hopkirk.
1963: first class win for the Mini Cooper
Just a year later Paddy Hopkirk was back, this time at the wheel of a Mini Cooper, with four works cars entering the famous Rally in 1963. The most successful Mini driver was Rauno Aaltonen clinching victory in his class and finishing third overall. Paddy Hopkirk followed as second in his segment and finished sixth in the overall rating, the two other Mini Coopers raced by the works team finishing 28th and 44th.
1964 Monte Carlo Rally: How the Mini Cooper became a Legend
The Rally promised to be more exciting than ever this year. And what had become increasingly evident in the years before then became a clear fact on 17 January 1964: The era of the amateurs was coming to an end, with more and more works teams now entering the Monte Carlo Rally. Starting out in Minsk, Glasgow, Paris, Frankfurt, Athens, Warsaw, Lisbon, and Monaco, the latter naturally also marking the finish line, the teams are really a colourful group. The ultra-powerful Ford Falcons with Greder/Delalande and Schlesser/Leguezec at the wheel are matched, at best, by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SE driven by Böhringer/Kaiser and Glemser/Braungart. But Trana/Lindstrom at the wheel of a Volvo 544 also expect to look good, just like Toivonen/Jarvi in their Volkswagen 1500. Citroën enters no less than four DS 19s, but in terms of sheer numbers still lags behind the British, BMC alone registering an astounding six ultra-quick and nimble Minis, with 24 more Minis being raced by private teams. Mini drivers Patrick Hopkirk and Henry Liddon set out on the Rally in the Russian city of Minsk together with another Mini team, whilst Rauno Aaltonen and Tony Ambrose start their trip to the south of France in Oslo. The three other Minis, one of them driven by Timo Mäkinen and Patrick Vanson, start the Rally in Paris, heading for their first interim destination in Reims.
Newer, stronger, faster: the Mini Cooper S
Precisely this combination of teams in the armada of Minis promises to be really exciting: Last year Aaltonen and Hopkirk finished first and second in their class, the Flying Finn even clinching third place overall. And this year they are entering the race with a new and even more powerful car: The model they had raced before was a production Mini developing 56 bhp from 997 cc, and with top speed of 140 km/h or 87 mph. This year the Minis entering the race are the new Cooper S with a larger engine displacing 1,071 cc and developing maximum output of 70 bhp. Not only the higher top speed of 160 km/h or 99 mph promises to make the Mini more competitive, but also – and, indeed, above all – much faster acceleration to 100 km/h in 13 instead of 19 seconds.
The Rally starts out very well for the drivers in their ultra-compact but very roomy racing machines: The average speed of all cars on their 4,000-kilometre trip to Reims is 50 km/h or 31 mph, with only 277 cars reaching this first destination – all the works Minis among them. Then, in this famous French city, the race officials carefully make a note of the number plates on the three red Minis with their white roofs destined to become a legend: 33 EJB driven by Paddy Hopkirk, LBL 6D with Rauno Aaltonen at the wheel, and AJB 44B piloted by Timo Mäkinen.
Paddy Hopkirk & Henry Liddon's 1964 Monte Carlo Rally Winning Cooper
- at the Gaydon Museum of the British Motor Industry
A promising start: Paddy Hopkirk finishes second
The first leg of the Rally now comprising all teams is to Saint Claude, with a distance of 597 kilometres or 370 miles. After the 23-kilometre special trial between Saint Didier and Mont Main, the Ford Falcons with their mighty 4.7-litre 8-cylinder power units appear to confirm their leading role, Bo Ljungfeldt ranking No 1 in his muscle machine, but with Patrick 'Paddy' Hopkirk only 16 seconds behind in his Mini Cooper S. No 3 is Eugen Böhringer in his Mercedes 300 SE, and Trana in a Volvo 544 is in fourth place. The second Mini Cooper with Timo Mäkinen at the wheel is No 5.
Hanging on there with full throttle
Still – the nimble Minis do not have a very good chance of keeping these leading positions, since they are simply not built for very high speeds. And the next leg of the race from La Madelaine to Pelle Autiers near Gap is a 46-kilometre full throttle trial, which is reflected by the ranking at the end of the day: Ljungfeldt remains in the lead with his fast American Falcon, Trana is now in second place in his 'humpback' Volvo. But the Minis put up a tremendous show all the same, Paddy Hopkirk dropping back only one place to No 3 in his Mini Cooper. Mercedes driver Eugen Böhringer is No 4, and Timo Mäkinen is able to hang on to fifth place.
Final decision in the 'night of long knives'
Entering the decisive and most demanding trial, the teams use all their resources and special ploys to achieve the best possible result:'Ice scouts' drive the same route as late as possible prior to the start of the race in order to warn the drivers of critical spots. The tyre game is also a dominating factor, some teams relying on spikes, others on compounds. Super low-section tires with asymmetric tread serve to provide optimum traction, some of the other tires used are in semi-radial-ply design. And the first Dunlop low-section racing tires also make their appearance this year. Prior to the 'night of long knives', Ljungfeldt’s Goliath is 65 seconds ahead of the 'Davids' in their Minis. But now Ljungfeldt’s large engine is a disadvantage, since the rule in the Monte Carlo Rally is that drivers with larger engines have to drive faster to avoid penalty points. So Bo Ljungfeldt hurls his car through the serpentines up to Col de Turini at an altitude of 1,607 metres or 5,271 feet – but the weight of his Ford Falcon, the sheer size of the car and rear-wheel drive prove to be a disadvantage on deep snow. The small Mini Coopers, in turn, more than compensate their lack of power through their nimble handling in bends combined with front-wheel drive.
Reaching the finish line, Ljungfeldt is now only 17 seconds ahead of Hopkirk. And according to the handicap formula, the Irish driver is now in the lead in his Mini Cooper with 2,152.1 penalty points. No 2 is Saab driver Eric Carlsson with 2,183.2 points. Mäkinen has also moved up one place, 2,216 points putting him just 0.2 points ahead of Ljungfeldt. Thirty points for victory: Paddy Hopkirk wins the Monte Carlo Rally. The only chance the Ford Falcon driver now has for victory is to win the final circuit race on the Grand Prix city track in Monaco included for the last time this year in the Monte Carlo Rally. But this remains only a theoretical option: Bo Ljungfeldt pushes the Falcon round the circuit as fast as he can, with only Schlesser being able to keep up. But Paddy Hopkirk doesn’t give the Mini Cooper a rest, either, finishing only half a minute behind Ljungfeldt and thus clinching victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. So at the end of the race Paddy Hopkirk is the winner with 2,536.2 points, Bo Ljungfeldt finishes second with 2,566.7 points, and Carlsson is third with 2,573.7 points. To round off the Mini Coopers’ triumphant appearance, Mäkinen is fourth with 2,593.8 and Rauno Aaltonen 6th with 2,619.5 points. The works strategy has therefore proven successful in every respect, Paddy Hopkirk and his two Scandinavian colleagues forming a joint team for the first time. At the end of the Rally the spectacular and eye-catching style of all three drivers shows everybody that these really must be the Three Musketeers.
Win in '65
In 1965 Timo Mäkinen from Finland continued the Mini Cooper’s story of success together with co-driver Paul Easter, bringing home a supreme victory in the Monte Carlo Rally as the only driver in the entire field to cover thousands of kilometres without one single penalty point despite very difficult snow conditions in the French Alps. This was Mäkinen’s first outing in a Mini Cooper with the new 1,275-cc power unit destined to become a synonym for this model. Mäkinen himself had set out from Stockholm together with Paddy Hopkirk, two other cars coming from Minsk and one each from Paris and Athens. Hopkirk finished the Rally in 26th place, closely followed by the two brothers Eric and Donald Morley forming another works team.
It was also in 1965 that BMC gave up an old tradition for the first time, the works Mini Coopers boasting tartan-red paintwork with a white roof right from the start. The only exception was the Swedish team Kallström/ Haakansson driving a green rally car with a white roof.
1965: only 35 out 237 cars reach the finish line– among them three Mini Cooper S’s. Leaving aside the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally when there was nothing but snow and ice in the Alpes Maritimes, weather conditions in 1965 were acknowledged as the most difficult ever. And instead of the final circuit race on the Formula 1 track to Monaco, the teams now had to go back to the mountains a second time, the rally cars being required to cover 610 kilometres or 378 miles in a second tormenting night drive from Saint Claude to Monte Carlo, again racing through the Alpes Maritimes under the toughest conditions. Visibility in dense snowfall was almost zero and the drivers were dazzled by their halogen headlights reflected by the snow and ice, so that ultimately only 35 out of the original 237 teams saw the chequered flag. Facing this kind of challenge, Mäkinen put up an amazing performance, achieving the fastest time in three out of five special trials on the last, ultra-difficult legs of the race. Entering the last night eight minutes in the lead, Mäkinen won no less than five out of six special trials in this final part of the Monte Carlo Rally.
A dicey decision in 1966: the winner – but disqualified
In 1966 the Mini armada went for their hat trick, the four Cooper teams being acknowledged as the favourites in the race and receiving lots of public interest. From the start, the teams lived up to this commitment, Mäkinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk leaving all the others far behind and finishing first, second and third at the end of the Rally. But then came one of the most questionable decisions in the history of the Monte Carlo Rally, the race commissioners determining in an 8-hour technical inspection after the event that the four additional headlights mounted on the radiator grille of the Mini Coopers failed to comply with French homologation rules. And proceeding from this highly debatable point, the jury disqualified the first three cars. With the Lotus Cortina finishing fourth being disqualified for the same reason, Citroën driver Toivonen finally moved up to the top of the podium as the winner
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LBL 6D - The 1967 winner
Back again in '67, and won
Notwithstanding this bitter experience, the Mini Coopers were back in the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally, the Three Musketeers Aaltonen, Hopkirk and Mäkinen being joined by Simo Lampinen and Tony Fall. Entering the event with starter number 177, Rauno Aaltonen/Henry Liddon finally ended up in first place, 12 seconds faster than the Lancia finishing second. All other Mini Coopers likewise saw the chequered flag, Hopkirk finishing 6th, Fall 10th, Lampinen 15th, and Mäkinen 41st.
Paddy Hopkirk's 1968 Monte Carlo Rally 5th Place Cooper S
1968, Mini's reign over
1968 was the last time the works Mini armada set out for Monaco, Aaltonen finishing third in his Cooper S, Tony Fall coming in fourth and Hopkirk finishing fifth, while Mäkinen was No 55 at the finish line. Despite these excellent results scored once again, it was clear at the time that the Mini Cooper S had passed its pinnacle as a rally car. The legend, however, lived on even after the era of the Mini Cooper had come to an end. And to this very day every rally enthusiast knows the meaning of '33 EJB'– the number plate on Paddy Hopkirk’s Mini Cooper S, the winner of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.