MINI has motorsport in its genes. While Alec Issigonis, credited with creating the classic Mini, concentrated primarily on the every-day suitability of the car, his friend and business partner John Cooper immediately sensed potential of a different kind when he first saw the initial sketches: in this novel small production car the successful racing car constructor recognised the basis for a promising sporty vehicle, and zealously set about converting the Mini.
Thus the foundation for an unequalled motorsport success story was laid, with the name John Cooper still being inextricably entwined with the sporting legend that is MINI. Victories at the Monte Carlo Rally are as much part of its history as the successful production cars that bear the Cooper badge.
In 1962 the Mini Cooper S first caused a stir in Monte Carlo. With Finland's Rauno Aaltonen at the wheel, the small car embarked on a David versus Goliath crusade against obviously more powerful opponents. However, just three kilometres from the end, Aaltonen, leading at the time, misjudged a corner and rolled out of the event. The following year, though, the Finn made up for this disappointment: driving a Mini Cooper S he was placed third overall and won his class.
It would get better: for the 1963/1964 winter rally season the Mini was more powerful. Driving spectacularly, Paddy Hopkirk finished first overall in the Monte Carlo Rally. In 1965 Finland’s Timo Mäkinen and co-driver Paul Easter repeated the Monte triumph. Only 35 cars – including three Mini Cooper S – made it to the finish out of a total field of 237 entries.
A hat trick was targeted for the following year. Drivers Timo Mäkinen, Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk sensationally achieved the feat by mounting the finish ramp in first, second and third respectively. However, bitter disappointment was to follow: the trio was disqualified after the rally’s stewards decreed the Mini’s headlight dipping mechanism did not conform to homologation requirements.
The disapointment about the missed victory did not change the fans' excitement for the Mini and its drivers. When Aaltonen and the Mini again finished first at the Rally Monte Carlo 1967, the three had already secured their place in the history of motorsport. With their successes Hopkirk, Mäkinen and Aaltonen became know as the "Three Musketeers" of rallying.
In 1965 Aaltonen triumphed in the European Rally Championship, with Tony Ambrose and Timo Mäkinen completing an excellent result for the Mini Cooper S by finishing second and third respectively. In addition, various Mini drivers celebrated numerous individual victories across Europe.
However, the Classic Mini did not only shine in rallying. In the 1960s the car achieved equal success on motor racing circuits. With its sporting qualities, it became one of the definitive racing cars of the decade.
Paddy Hopkirk won the Monte Carlo Rally with a 1964 classic Mini Cooper S. The car in detail...
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