Driving Legends
The Three Musketeers: Fast men in their Mini Coopers

Paddy Hopkirk

Patrick Barron Hopkirk was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 4 April 1933. After finishing school, he studied agriculture at Trinity College in Dublin for three years, then taking up his studies in engineering. In 1955 he left university and started his career as a rally driver first with Triumph and then with Rootes. During these early years in motorsport Paddy developed business interests in Belfast with various car companies such as the Paddy Hopkirk School of Motoring and Paddy Hopkirk (Garages) Ltd.

Although Paddy never adopted Rauno Aaltonen’s style of applying the brakes with his left foot (a style of driving, indeed, destined to make inroads in rally racing), he nevertheless became one of the fastest drivers in the sport, finishing third in the 1962 Monte Carlo Rally at the wheel of a Sunbeam Rapier. Despite this very good result, he felt that the Rootes Team failed to acknowledge his full potential, so he decided to switch over to the BMC Team, driving an Austin Healey 3000. When joining BMC, Paddy entered the scene at virtually the same time as the Mini Cooper. And after having thoroughly tested this small and nimble front-wheel-drive athlete, he not only felt perfectly at home with this drive concept, but also set his focus from now on rally cars built to this principle. Driving the Mini Cooper, Paddy Hopkirk gained international recognition through numerous outstanding victories and top places in the most challenging events. Apart from victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, his greatest achievements include the winning title in the 1965 and 1967 Circuit of Ireland, the 1966 and 1967 Alpine Rally, and the 1967 Rally Acropolis. Finally, over and above this wide range of racing activities, Paddy Hopkirk also entered road races such as the Targa Florio and Sebring.
In 1970, two years after BMC’s Chief Executive Lord Stokes had closed down the Works Motorsport Department, Paddy Hopkirk withdrew from professional rally racing to concentrate on his business interests. However, he has not let go of the sport completely to this very day, entering the RAC Golden 50, the anniversary event for the 50th RAC Rally, in 1982 and indeed winning this historical event together with co-driver Brian Culcheth in the very same Mini Cooper which had brought Timo Mäkinen victory in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally. In 1990, in turn, Paddy entered the Pirelli Classic Marathon, bringing home the title together with co-driver Alec Poole. With Monte Carlo never losing its outstanding appeal, Paddy Hopkirk decided to try his luck once again in 1994, entering the Rally in a new Mini Cooper together with co-driver Ron Crellin. Boasting starter number 37 and the L33EJB number plates front and rear, Paddy battled it out against far more modern cars and came home in an impressive 60th place thirty years after his legendary victory.

Paddy today

Paddy Hopkirk at Monte Carlo 1994

Paddy Hopkirk and EBL 56C at
Millbrook filming for the BBC

Rauno Aaltonen

Rauno Aaltonen was born in Turku, Finland, on 7 January 1938 – and from the very beginning he was fascinated by everything motorsport had to offer: At the tender young age of 12 he started racing fast boats on water, winning the Finnish Speed Boat Championship no less than 7 times and even bringing home the Scandinavian Championship at the young age of 20. Another of Rauno’s passions was motorcycles where he became a member of the National Speedway Team and won the Scandinavian Grand Prix in road racing on a 125-cc Ducati. At that time he majored at university in economic science and then dedicated his attention to rally racing. In summer he battled for points at the wheel of a Mercedes, in winter he drove a Saab and won the Finnish Rally Championship in 1961.
Rauno Aaltonen joined the BMC Team in 1962, entering the Monte Carlo Rally at the wheel of a Mini Cooper. Holding second place just three kilometres from the finish line, he misjudged a bend and rolled over the car in a bad accident. With his car catching fire immediately, Rauno barely managed to get out and escape the flames in time. A year later he finished third overall in the Monte Carlo Rally in his Mini Cooper and won his particular class, then finishing 7th in 1964.
After scoring a number of wins and leading places in international rallies, Rauno Aaltonen won the European Rally Championship in 1965.
He then continued his story of success throughout 1966, moving on to another highlight in January 1967 when, in his inimitable style and with the help of the right tires, he became the overall winner in the Monte Carlo Rally.
Well-known as the “Flying Finn”, Rauno spent the following years as a works driver with Lancia, Saab, and Nissan. In 1976 he was appointed Chief Instructor of BMW Driver Training also on account of his analytical and teaching talents giving him the nickname “Rally Professor”. In 1981 the government of Finland honoured Rauno’s commitment to motorsport and road safety by making Aaltonen a member of the Order of the Finnish Lion, and in Germany he was awarded the Cristophorus Prize. To this very day, Rauno Aaltonen remains active in both motorsport and traffic safety as a very popular driver and sought-after advisor.

Rauno with a Ferrari Dino 246 GT

Rauno Aaltonen (left) and Lars
Ytterbring on the 1991 RAC Rally

Rauno today

Timo Mäkinen

Timo Mäkinen was born in Helsinki, Finland, on 18 March 1938, starting his professional life by delivering newspapers for his father’s transport company. But soon he started racing in ice track events, subsequently entering circuit races. In the late ’50s he then hit the headlines for the first time through his success at the wheel of a Jaguar D-Type.
Timo entered his first rally in 1960, sponsored by the BMC importer in Helsinki. And from now on he knew exactly where his future was in motorsport: it was in rally racing. So soon he started to make a name for himself at the wheel of an Austin Healey 3000 and the Mini Cooper, showing particular preference for the small front-wheel-drive athlete: Mäkinen was one of the first drivers to prove the Mini’s potential and develop the right technique for scoring successful results in the sporting Cooper. This soon brought him to the attention of BMC’s Team Manager Stuart Turner, who hired Mäkinen for the 1962 RAC Rally, in which Timo finished 7th overall.
Assisting Mäkinen as the co-driver in an Austin Healey 3000, Christobel Carlisle described the Finn’s style of driving in the following words back in 1963: “After three hours of driving over one snowbound pass after the other all I wanted to do was take the next plane home. Quite honestly, I was scared out of my mind. He kept on and on at 130 km/h, power-sliding round every bend. But nothing ever went wrong. So I gave in to destiny. And at the end of the Rally I believed in Timo so strongly that I was able to push him even harder in order to meet the time limit.” This, perhaps, explains Timo’s outstanding performance in 1965 when he won the snowbound Monte Carlo Rally far ahead of the competition.
Racing the Austin Healey 3000 and the Mini Cooper, Mäkinen scored one outstanding result after the other back in the ’60s. His victories at the wheel of the Mini Cooper include the 1964 Tulip Rally, the 1965, 1966 and 1967 Thousand Lake Rallies, and the 1966 Three Cities Rally. In 1968 he switched over to power boat racing and immediately won the Finnish Offshore Championship, subsequently winning the Round Britain Race in 1969.
Timo Mäkinen continued rally racing for Ford and Peugeot well into the ’90s. And like Paddy Hopkirk, he also entered the 1994 Monte Carlo Rally at the wheel of a new Mini, even though he was unable for technical reasons to reach the finish line.

Timo Mäkinen in 1991

Mäkinen at the wheel of an
Austin-Healey 3000 in the '60's

Back in a Cooper

The 1965 RAC Rally winners Rauno Aaltonen and
Tony Ambrose share the champagne

1965 Tulip Rally Rauno Aaltonen/Henry Liddon


A big star in a small car: Rauno Aaltonen all about Mini and MINI

Do you remember your first Monte Carlo Rally in the Mini?
Of course – that was back in 1962. And it was my first Monte Carlo Rally ever. Before entering, I had called BMC’s Motorsport Director Stuart Turner who I knew from various summer rallies, asking him about a car for Monte Carlo. He told me that he had already registered two cars with Geoff Mabbs and Pat Moss at the wheel. And since the registration period had already expired,
I officially became Mabbs’ co-driver. But in actual fact I was the one who took the wheel.

What were your first impressions?
Well, that was the first time a Mini Cooper was ever raced in a major rally.
And the car was really great! I hadn’t expected it to be so reliable the very first time. Just imagine – just a few specials trials before the finish line we were second overall!

But what happened then?
I had an accident. It was dry and I wasn’t going too fast, but somehow I touched the cliff on the left-hand side on a narrow stretch of road, and that was it. The car flew off the road, rolling over four times and exploding in flames. Maybe the right-hand-drive steering was the reason for my mistake, I really don’t know. Anyway, my co-driver was able to get out of the car first, nothing happened to him.

What did you like best about the Mini Cooper?
When I saw the car the first time, I was convinced that it had to be extremely agile with its wheels right out at the corners. And I was right! The Team had really prepared both the car and the engine excellently, making all the modifications allowed and possible at the time.
My 1962 Mini Cooper featured a modified camshaft different from the circuit racing models, with engine output of approximately 85 bhp. The gear ratios were probably also different from the standard model. Obviously, with relatively little power like this, we had to make up for our disadvantage elsewhere, driving downhill faster than the competition. But that was dead easy with our light and nimble Mini.

But you still had to be an excellent driver...
Being the “inventor” of the left-foot-braking technique, I had big advantages in the Mini Cooper. In fact, I developed this technique back in 1958 when switching over for the first time from rear-wheel drive to the front-wheel-drive Saab. To begin with I kept on ramming big holes in the snow, since I simply slid on in a straight line. Being really nice guys, my colleagues told me there was a lever in the middle you could also use for braking! But I felt that using the handbrake was not logical, since it’s always better to keep both hands on the steering wheel. So I developed the left-foot braking technique on the Saab – with the additional benefit of exerting a greater load on the front wheels when applying the brakes. And for some reason the other drivers were not that good in using this technique, not even when I drove the Mini later.

What would you have wanted most on the Mini Cooper back then?
Bigger wheels! We constantly had tyre problems. Although the shortest special trial on the Monte Carlo Rally was only 12 kilometers, all the tyre tread was gone at the end. So 13-inch-tires would have been much better, and even 12 inches would have been enough. But somewhat it never worked out.

Weren’t the small wheels also a disadvantage in the snow?
No, because we had by far the best tires back then. We used Finnish winter tires and the Finnish tyre industry was years ahead in developing tires with a good grip. Since there are no high mountains in Finland, we don’t use snow-chains. Instead, manufacturers have developed high-grip tires making us far superior to the competition. Later we also had spikes, but they often overheated on dry roads and started flying off the tires.

Are you still in touch with your colleagues from the old days?
Yes, we meet now and then. Maybe once a year. Paddy Hopkirk is older than me and he’s not that active any more. Timo Mäkinen lives in Helsinki, but he doesn’t know foreign languages that well, so he prefers to stay in Finland.

Did you have any amusing experiences with the Mini?
Sure. Once, after being disqualified in 1966, I came back in December to practice for the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally. But it’s really impossible to drive on Sunday, since there are simply too many ski tourists on the roads. So I decided to go skiing instead. And since there was no parking space available, I parked the Mini Cooper right in the middle of the market square.
It was the only car in the entire area. Within a matter of seconds a French policemen came running up to me, asking what I was doing there with my car. He demanded to see my driver’s licence – but when he read my name, he said: “Oh, Mr. Aaltonen, you can do anything you like!” Then he even apologised for the organisers of the Rally, saying that they shouldn’t have disqualified us! Now, looking back in hindsight, it’s fair to say that this disqualification gave the Mini huge popularity and really made us famous. Maybe more so than even the best racing win.

Do you know how many rallies you raced in the Mini?
No, I really have no idea. But in the ’60s I drove Mini Cooper most of the time. And that was when I scored more overall wins than any other rally driver in the world – nearly all of them in a Mini Cooper.

When did you drive the “classic” Mini the last time?
For the works team in 1968. But in the mid-80s I raced a private Mini Cooper in a circuit event.

And how did it go?
I won. Because the race track was really very tight with lots of corners.

How do you like the new MINI?
It’s great! The designers have really succeeded in capturing the spirit of the Mini. The car is really unique, much more outstanding and convincing than all those so-called retro models. And the driving feeling is also the same: Both generations of the Mini or MINI stand out from all other cars in exactly the same way. They are extremely agile and follow the steering immediately. Let me give you a comparision: Back then the Mini was a Princess, really beautiful and full of style. Today the Princess has grown up and the new MINI has become a Queen.

Rauno, Timo and Paddy were reunited recently in Monte Carlo and got to drive around the roads they know so well...
It was reported on by the Telegraph:

Mini memories
(Filed: 29/01/2005)

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

Old Mini or new MINI?
Brian Laban decides, on the Col de Turini

Rauno Aaltonen, Timo Mäkinen and Paddy
Hopkirk reunited recently in Monte Carlo

The road sign says "16 Lacets". That's 16 hairpins in succession, some of them almost too steep to walk up or down, joined by short, narrow sections of never-quite-straight, never-quite-smooth asphalt, almost all with sheer rock faces on one side and vertical drops into oblivion on the other. Not to mention black ice, packed snow or the odd rock-fall around each blind approach.

Four decades have passed since the original Mini Cooper S first won the Monte Carlo Rally with a series of giant-killing performances on these very roads, and most things change a lot in 40 years. But whether you spell Mini with lower case letters as in 1964, or MINI all in capitals, as they do now it belongs to BMW, the Col de Turini (of which the 16 consecutive hairpins are a tiny part) is as thought-provoking as ever.

Wind back the clock, to the beginning of 1964, when the Monte was one of the blue-chip headline grabbers of the motorsport calendar. Right up there, in its heyday, with any grand prix, or Indianapolis, or Le Mans - and arguably more glamorous than any of them, thanks to the magical setting in fairytale Monte Carlo. Back then, in deep mid-winter, several hundred crews in the wildest variety of cars - some professionally prepared, others with not much more than a few maps and a warm flask of coffee - set off from points all around Europe to converge on a common starting point for the truly competitive bit, in Reims, followed by a couple of days and nights of special stages in the icy mountains above the principality, and a final day hammering around the Monaco grand prix circuit to decide who'd won. It was a Boy's Own Paper adventure, but it was tough at the top.

In 1964 Paddy Hopkirk and co-driver Henry Liddon hardly took the easy option by choosing Minsk, way behind the Iron Curtain, as a starting point. But the BMC management clearly thought driving a stripped-out, rally-prepared Mini from Russia to the Côte d'Azur in January would be good publicity - which then as now was the main object of the exercise.

OK, so they faced temperatures so low in Minsk (-26 degrees) that most cars had to be tow-started; they faced roads that normally accommodated more tractors and tanks than rally cars; they faced unreadable road signs, almost non-existent daylight, minimal map detail and maximum en-route bureaucracy at border crossings. And they had to watch their steps, because someone else always was, too: Hopkirk's first drama came before he was even out of Russia when he took a wrong slot down an unmarked road - but threw the car into a 180-degree turn when he realised that the fur hat in the snow in front of them had a gun.

It was a gendarme rather than a soldier who stopped them the second time, deep into France when they were driving, none too slowly, down an urban one-way street, the wrong way. Road penalties in those days meant rally time penalties, and a big enough offence - which this probably was - could mean disqualification. When the gendarme asked for the crew's official rally log book to record the digression, Hopkirk explained that they were going so quickly in the wrong direction because he had just been informed that his mother had died and he was rushing home for the funeral, no longer in the rally. So that was OK, and so, of course, was Mrs Hopkirk, had les vieux Guillaumes bothered to check.

They arrived at Reims without penalties, to a jolly reception with excellent champagne and dodgy food - which caused some other crews to make additional service halts the next day, on the run-in through the mountains to Monte. That 1,400km "common route'' included five timed "special stages'', totalling 132km and taking in 23km of the Col de Turini as the final stage, before the set-piece finale.

The contest, amazingly, was between the new front-drive, 1,071cc Cooper S entries and the big, 4·7-litre, rear-drive Ford Falcons - works teams head to head in a classic David and Goliath face-off. Goliath won the weigh-in and all the opening rounds, as the fearless Bo Ljungfeldt set fastest times with his Falcon on every stage. And it's worth noting just how scary Ljungfeldt was, even to a team-mate like F1 world champion Graham Hill, who was never notably nervy.

Later he told of following Bo and watching him pass other cars by throwing the Falcon up the face of the rocks bordering the road, then dropping back down. "I saw him do it time after time,'' said Hill, "and I still don't believe it.''

David pulled out the sucker-punch, though - or Paddy and Henry did. They'd run the flying Falcon (and Eric Carlsson's spectacular Saab) close on every stage, and around the streets of Monte Carlo, with a little help from a handicapping system that levelled the playing field slightly, they did just enough to win.

Paddy says it was French journalist Bernard Cahier who told him they'd done it, and he wasn't sure whether to believe him - but it was real enough when Princess Grace handed over the biggest of the half dozen trophies they'd won. And Mini won the team prize, with Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen backing up.

After it all, Hopkirk, Liddon and 33 EJB, the winning car, were whisked back to London to appear on the stage of Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Mini winning its first Monte was a big story.

Four decades on it was BMW, not BMC, which brought Hopkirk, Aaltonen and Mäkinen, plus the 1964 winning car, back to Monaco, and brought the new MINI Cooper S along to show where four decades of progress have taken us.

It has taken the three driving legends to being a bit greyer maybe, but no less enthusiastic about sharing a few beers by the harbourside and talking techniques (Aaltonen "invented'' left-foot braking, Hopkirk never got on with it and Mäkinen, now in his mid-sixties, still takes the mickey out of both of them).

33 EJB looks tiny, and remarkably standard - just a few more lights, grippy seats and a dashboard full of arcane switches and early 1960s rallying things. The thought of driving it from Minsk to Monaco isn't comfortable, but they reckon the car was fantastic to drive.

Which takes us back to the Turini. We drove the classic Mini Cooper up and the new MINI Cooper S down, and it was magical, both ways. Nostalgic and still chuckable going up - ludicrously fast, usually sideways and tyre-shreddingly, brake smokingly grin-cracking on the way down.

BMW has done an honourable trick in celebrating the Mini heritage without hijacking it, and there wasn't an original driver there who didn't think the MINI has captured at least the spirit of the Mini. Me, too.

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