Paddy will be known to everyone at Mini Meet West and his experiences and record of achievements are simply too numerous to list. Paddy is one of the greatest British rally drivers of all time. He made his name in the Mini after taking overall victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. This massive achievement went down in history, forever linking the name of Paddy Hopkirk and the Mini, making them instant Rally Legends.
Paddy started his career with three of the great factory works teams: Standard-Triumph, Rootes Group and the mighty British Motor Corporation. He competed in 283 events, best described in his biography – “A Dash of the Irish”. Of all these achievements, I should like to highlight the Monte Carlo, Acropolis, and Circuit of Ireland Rally wins. He won the Irish rally five times; partly explained by his fueling the car with triple-distilled Bushmills. In the long-distance stakes, he was second overall in the London to Sydney Marathon in 1968 and fourth in the World Cup Rally to Mexico in 1970. Amongst his racing adventures, he competed six times at Le Mans with class wins and at the Sebring 12-hour where he also had a class win.
He has not slowed down and he remains a British Ambassador for BMW-Mini worldwide and in October of last year, he was elected President of the British Racing Drivers Club.
Somehow, he found time for a successful entrepreneurial career and many of us have been keen buyers of the Paddy Hopkirk Mini accessories.
Paddy’s first win came in 1953 at the Cairncastle hill-climb at the wheel of a VW Beetle. He started his winning career in professional racing and rally driving in 1955. He finished third at the 1962 Monte Carlo Rally in a Sunbeam Rapier.
It is now more than 60 years since one of the most spectacular victories in the history of international motor sport. On 21 January 1964, the Mini Cooper S won the Monte Carlo Rally for the first time. It was the pairing of Paddy Hopkirk and his co-driver Henry Liddon that pulled off the big surprise. The faultless run over country roads and mountain passes, ice and snow, tight corners and steep gradients laid the foundations for the underdog-turned-giant-slayer sport legend.
At the winner’s ceremony he shared the cheers of the crowd with his team-mates; Timo Mäkinen in fourth-place and Rauno Aaltonen in seventh place.
The classic Mini’s victory was celebrated with particular excitement in Britain. Paddy received congratulatory telegrams from the British Government and even the Beatles.
The most dramatic Monte Carlo Rally for the “Three Musketeers” was to follow in 1966. Mäkinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk dominated the event from the start, and it was in this order that they completed a clean sweep of the top three positions overall. Public enthusiasm for the classic Minis appeared to be boundless – as was the disappointment when the French race commissioners revealed their decision to disqualify the trio on account of headlights that allegedly did not conform with official regulations. This meant that the Citroën driver Pauli Toivonen was crowned the winner.
We are all looking forward to hearing Paddy tell us more about the British world-beating sports, rallying and racing car industry.