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Anybody who doesn’t believe in miracles is not living in the real worldHistoric victory of the classic Mini at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964.

Anybody who doesn’t believe in miracles is not living in the real worldHistoric victory of the classic Mini at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964.

60 years ago, Paddy Hopkirk transformed the diminutive British runabout into a motor-sport legend when he gained overall victory at the Monte Carlo Rally – Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen repeated the triumph in the years 1965 and 1967. These were achievements that shook the sporting establishment to its core and transformed the fortunes of the MINI brand, defining its character to the present day.

Paddy Hopkirk drifting through Monte Carlo.

“The victory achieved by Paddy Hopkirk driving the Mini Cooper S in 1964 marked a turning point in the history of Mini. It proved that the car isn’t simply a charming city runabout, but demonstrated that it could also celebrate huge successes in motor sport. Today, this tradition and a passion for the motor-sport heritage of MINI continues to remain a tangible aspect of our models,” commented Stefanie Wurst, Head of MINI.

Astonished spectators.

Blueprint for modern small cars.
At the tail-end of the 1950s, the great rally stars generally drove through English woodlands, over French mountain passes or took the round trip from Liège to Sofia and back in majestic, opulently powered motor cars. The true benchmarks at rallies were Austin Healey and Ford Falcon and they dominated the sports scene. But the fact is that they weren’t really suitable for everyday use. Around that time, British-Greek automotive designer Alec Issigonis was responsible for building the most modern car of its era by far at the British Motor Corporation (BMC). The classic Mini defined the benchmark for small cars that still applies to this day when it debuted in 1959 with its transversely mounted front engine and front-wheel drive.

Let it snow!

John Cooper had achieved fame and fortune as a racing driver and designer. He was convinced about the sporting potential of the classic Mini and described precisely what was needed to his friend Issigonis: “You didn’t make a family car. It’s a bloody racing car. Give it more power, better brakes and build the thing.” The underrated underdog was born – a role the Mini always embraced in its long history of more than six decades.

Historic Gokart-Feeling.

The classic Mini Cooper was tailormade for the rally routes of that era. Virtually no bodywork overhangs ensured neutral handling, completely unheard of at the time. The compact body still left a smidgeon of space to squeeze past the next parapet on narrow mountain roads. And thanks to the exceedingly modest 650 kilos that a rally Mini registered on the scales back in the day, the eminently respectable 55 hp yielded a perfectly acceptable power-to-weight ratio. The design also witnessed the birth of that famous go-kart feeling.

Ice, snow and 34 hairpin bends to victory.

In the winter of 1964, the penultimate stage of the rally set the Mini Cooper S on the road to victory. The test at the Col de Turini in the French Maritime Alps involves 34 hairpin bends over a distance of 24 kilometres. This was a tremendous challenge in the snowy and icy conditions at the 1,600-metre altitude of the pass. Hopkirk crossed the finishing line only 17 seconds behind his most tenacious rival Bo Ljungfeldt driving the much more powerful Ford Falcon equipped with a V8 engine. The handicap formula applied at the time equalised differences in weight and power, and this put the Mini ahead in the overall standings. And the mighty mouse continued to heroically defend its lead in the final circuit race through the streets of Monte Carlo.

Paddy Hopkirk and the magic Mini.

Back at home, the victory achieved by the classic mini naturally generated tumultuous enthusiasm. Hopkirk received a congratulatory telegram from the British Government and the Beatles were among the first well-wishers showering him with praise. “An autograph card arrived from the Beatles,” recalled Hopkirk later, and it said: “Now you are one of us, Paddy!”. A fantastic memento.” Overnight, Hopkirk became a motor-sport hero and a kind of fifth Beatle.

The future of the MINI feeling now is almost silent, locally emission free, but still undoubtedly powerful. The three-door version and Countryman started the ball rolling. The MINI Aceman followed in the first half of 2024, a completely new vehicle that is situated between these two models. And the MINI John Cooper Works models are also gradually being electrified – marking a new chapter in more than 60 years of brand history.

The all electric MINI ACEMAN.

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