Small Car, Huge Win – 1964 Monte Carlo Rallye Profile Page Two
The 33rd edition of the Monte Carlo Rally began — as was traditional at the time — with a nod to the origins of the event, the cars starting from nine European cities before converging on the French city of Reims. The Hopkirk/Liddon partnership got their journey with the Mini Cooper S under way in Minsk, while for Rauno Aaltonen and Tony Ambrose the Monte adventure started in Oslo, and Timo Mäkinen and Patrick Vanson set off from Paris. The Mini successfully negotiated all these journeys and all six works cars were able to take their place in the 277-strong field in Reims. The first stage of the rally to Saint-Claude brought together the two cars which were to define the 1964 Monte from start to finish. Bo Ljungfeldt roared to the top of the time sheets in his Ford Falcon, but Paddy Hopkirk remained hot on his heels in his Mini Cooper S.
The next leg of the rally was made up largely of mile-long flat-out sections, but Hopkirk refused to let his big-engined rivals build up a decisive advantage. The “Night of the Long Knives” would become the day of reckoning; this was the classic Mini’s chance to demonstrate its talents to the full. “It was quite snowy that year, so we had done a lot of practising and preparing,” explained Hopkirk. “The Mini was particularly good downhill, and all the tests were up and downhill, so what we lost going up, I think we made up for going downhill.”
Irresistible handling, correct tyre choice, Hopkirk’s gifts at the wheel and the snow — which slowed the bigger cars down — all came together and ensured that Hopkirk was able to take over the lead on the 1,607-metre (5,270 ft) Col de Turini. However, it remained a tight contest all the way to the finish, with Bo Ljungfeldt, as expected, again posting the fastest time on the final stage through Monte Carlo. However, Hopkirk was also squeezing everything from his Mini Cooper S once again and hung onto his advantage to wrap up the win. “It’s not like rallying today when you know where you are. I had to do the final circuit, then the journalists told me I had won and I couldn’t believe it. It surprised the world and us, so it was very nice,” recalled Hopkirk.
The following year Timo Mäkinen and co-driver Paul Easter ensured the classic Mini would retain its title. They were helped by a new engine with capacity increased to 1275cc, but it was the Scandinavian’s driving skill that landed the decisive blow. Mäkinen was the only driver to remain penalty-point-free throughout the rally distance, despite the fact that the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally was providing one of the most exacting tests in the history of the event. Epic levels of snow and ice made the going seriously tough, but that didn’t stop the organisers including a second night stage through the Maritime Alps in the programme. Mäkinen and his Mini Cooper S appeared impervious to the deteriorating conditions. The Finn won five of the six special stages on the final leg of the rally and finished the event with a handsome margin over the second-placed car.
The most impressive and 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 at the finish. Public enthusiasm for the quicksilver 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 lights that allegedly did not conform with official regulations. This was also the reason given for removing the fourth-placed Lotus Cortina from the classification, which meant that the Finnish Citroën driver Pauli Toivonen was crowned the winner.
The dream of a Monte hat-trick lay in tatters, but the “Three Musketeers” resolved to return at the earliest opportunity. In the winter of 1967 Hopkirk, Mäkinen and Aaltonen lined up along two other BMC works teams for the Monte Carlo Rally. And this time neither the rules nor the other cars could stand between the Mini Cooper S and victory. Rauno Aaltonen was joined by Henry Liddon — Paddy Hopkirk’s co-driver from the successful 1964 Monte — for his latest assault on the rally. The Finnish-British team clicked straight into gear. Aaltonen guided the classic Mini to what was this time an undisputed victory with 12 seconds to spare. And nobody was more pleased for the duo than Hopkirk, “Henry Liddon was really an outstanding co-driver. But the co-drivers never got enough credit, you know. They did a fantastic job in reading the notes and they were the office manager of the car.”
Hopkirk finished the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally in sixth place and drove the classic Mini to fifth overall the following year. Aaltonen was third in 1968. However, the era of the small car that stormed to the summit of rally racing was clearly approaching an end. Its rivals had grown just too powerful and the sporting zenith of the classic Mini was now behind it. Memories of that famous triumph in the winter of 1964 will forever burn bright and the “Three Musketeers” have written an indelible chapter into the history of motor sport. As for distinctive headlight solutions, such as incurred the wrath of the powers-that-be back in 1966, they also live on as some of the most popular Original MINI Accessories — from black headlight housing and the evocative spotlights fronting the radiator grille to retrofit xenon headlights.
[Source: BMW AG]