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Mini's at the Monte M.I.N.I.

To celebrate the 30 years since the Mini first won the Monte Carlo rally, three Minis were entered in this years event. The two most prominent entries were the Rover supported cars driven by Paddy Hopkirk and Phillippe Camandona, and Timo Makinen's car supported by Rover Japan. Both Hopkirk and Makinen have won the Monte Carlo rally in Mini's during it's heyday. To allow the Minis to be entered into this year's rally, Rover released a limited edition Monte Mini Cooper to homologate a number of special parts, including a Jack Knight 5 speed gearbox.

The Mini's return to international rallying was never going to be anything less than eventful. With Makinen's car, the drama started even before he had left for Monte Carlo. His car was stolen from the car trailer just hours before it was due to depart for Monte Carlo. Three days later the car was completely destroyed after have its engine and gearbox removed. Luckily Makinen's team had a spare bodyshell and engine available from a second entry that fell through after sponsorship problems. With only 48 hours till the start of the rally the team worked throughout the night to prepare the new car just in time to catch the last ferry across the channel.

Once in Monte Carlo, the Minis proved to be very popular with the crowds to the extent that they often got in the way of the service crews. The first day of the rally saw Makinen's car retire with a fuel injection black box problem. Hopkirk's car suffered a broken downpipe at the end of stage three, but his crew was able to change it in 18 minutes, including removing and replacing the fuel injection system. At the end of the first day Hopkirk was in 59th place overall, just three seconds behind Camandona in 58th. This put them third and fourth in their class with only the all conquering World Champion Skodas in front.

Paddy and Ron
Paddy Hopkirk and Ron Crellin with their new car and the original car that won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally

The second day saw a number of minor problems including the wipers getting stuck and the horn stop working. Hopkirk complained to the service crew that the fog lights had gone out, only to have it pointed out that they were covered in mud. Two more broken downpipes were swapped with what was becoming a recurring problem. At the end of the day Hopkirk had moved up several places.

On the third day Hopkirk was involved in a minor off, damaging a wheel trim and the exhaust. At the end of the day the two Minis were running in 47th and 52nd place, well within the top 100 qualifying limit for the final night.

The first stage of the final night was completed without any problems despite being very icy. On the second stage was a difficult road section with only limited access for support vehicles. It was on this section that disaster struck the Hopkirk car. The uprated 100 amp alternator failed causing the fan belt to snap. Hopkirk managed to fit a new belt but ran out of time before he could get going again. Unfortunately the Camandona car went out on the next stage with an electrical problem.

However both cars were classified as finishers and Hopkirk's car was given honorary fourth place in the cavalcade driven around the town to the castle where Prince Rainer presides over the prize giving ceremony. After the first three place getters had been given the prizes, Hopkirk and Crellin drove their Mini onto the plinth where they were honoured with an introduction to Prince Rainer and presented with Honore of Paris watches.

While the cars didn't complete the whole course, they did show that the Mini Cooper is still a force to be reckoned with in international rallying.

by Dean Cording

 

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