Few perhaps expected the unassuming small car to triumph so spectacularly at the event, but it proved to be a race for Mini to remember.
It went down as one of the most stunning victories in motorsport history, as driver Paddy Hopkirk guided the car into the book of legends.
It spelled a period of rallying dominance for the car, with Hopkirk and teammate Henry Liddon’s success being replicated in 1965 and 1967 by Timo Makinen and Rauno Aaltonen, respectively.
“Although the Mini was only a little family saloon, technically it had a lot of advantages,” the 80-year-old said. “Its front-wheel drive and front-mounted transverse engine were a great advantage, and the fact the car was smaller and the roads were ploughed, they were quite narrow, so I suppose that was an advantage.
The path to victory was forged during the penultimate stage of the Monte Carlo race, with the Mini Cooper S – adorned with the number 37 and the now famous 33 EJB licence plate – taking a shock victory over the Ford Falcon.
Despite crossing the finish line 17 seconds off the pace of the powerful V8 model, the handicap formula that took account of the difference in weight and power of the cars saw the Mini at the top of the overall standings.
In the final sprint event of the rally, the Mini held its own through the winding streets to see Mr Hopkirk and his little machine take a famous win. Not only that, but Makinen and Aaltonen also took fourth and seventh place, respectively, to cap off a sensational race for the team.
Mr Hopkirk said of the telegram from the Liverpool pop sensations: “That was followed by a photograph of the four of them autographed to me saying: ‘You’re one of us now, Paddy.’ And it’s very nice to have that nowadays.”
The Mini remains as one of the most iconic vehicles in British manufacturing history, not least because of its stunning performance in the Monte Carlo event, but also because of its unique shape, style, handling and fun that it has provided drivers with for decades.
Despite the surprise the victory caused to some, it perhaps wasn’t such a shock for the manufacturers. The Monte Carlo racing version of the car was first developed by sports car designer John Cooper and he was one of the men responsible for the added power in the model.
Even years before the race the car was tested out by top racing drivers to examine its handling abilities – especially on the corners.
The opening win would begin a racing legacy for the Mini and would cement its place as a cultural motoring icon for years to come.
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