40 years and still as loud as ever: in 1972, an underdog produced a huge shock at the Rally New Zealand – the Mini 1275GT Clubman. The event consisted of 48 timed stages over the course of a six-day route from Auckland to Wellington. Andrew Cowan and Jim Scott celebrated a legendary win with the nimble car, taking on and defeating the bigger, works-supported teams. The 2012 Rally New Zealand will be the scene of a reunion.
A victory on the same scale as the legendary performances of the Mini Cooper S at the Rally Monte Carlo: Cowan/Scott, at the wheel of the 95-hp Mini 1275 GT Clubman, were not content with playing a bit part in the big show, they wanted the star role. At the same time, the sister car of the “GC3”, the Mini 1275 GT Clubman “GC4” of Angus Hyslop and Mike Langley, also caused a stir by finishing fifth.
The two Mini Clubmans were prepared for the New Zealand Motor Company in the workshops of British Leyland Abingdon in Great Britain, in accordance with Group 2 regulations, to be used at the “Heatway International Motor Rally” – today’s Rally New Zealand. New Zealand’s Peter Levet, who worked as a technical consultant for the New Zealand Motor Company, was responsible for coordinating the assembly and was also involved in designing the cars. At the heart of the two Mini Clubmans was a Cooper S engine, which generated 95 hp with a 1,293 cm3
A legendary battle of attrition
The unconditional and uncompromising preparation of the Mini, coupled with a meticulous service, developed into a crucial factor in the success at the 1972 Rally New Zealand. That and the internationally experienced Scot Andrew Cowan, who had already won the marathon London-Sydney Rally, played into the hands of the two Minis. The narrow, winding route was also typical Mini terrain: the majority of the stage wins went to Mini. A seven-day battle of attrition developed between the competitors and the 4000-kilometre rally, which featured 2079 kilometres of special stage. Even the pair of Minis did not always emerge unscathed. The opening evening, on which only a one-hour service is permitted, saw the eventual winner, the Mini “GC3”, struggle with overheating problems. However, the engineers stepped up to the mark and installed a homologated auxiliary fan to cure the problem once and for all within the permitted time. The Mini ran like clockwork from then until the finish. Mini dominated the rally and eventually won comfortably 39 minutes ahead of the second-placed car – a legend was born.
Even today the Mini 1275 GT Clubman has lost none of its appeal. The “GC4”, sister car to the Rally New Zealand winner from back then, will be on display in the MINI exhibition area during the rally around Auckland. New Zealander Jim Scott, a rally legend since his win in 1972, is bound to be following the progress of his successors in the MINI closely.
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