Fifty years ago Paddy Hopkirk in Mini Cooper S registration number 33 EJB stunned the world and against all the odds won the Monte Carlo Rally. A star guest at the Festival of Speed this year, Paddy will be marking one of this country’s most momentous rallying moments with special drives up the hill on each day of the Festival. But first, the GRR interrogation…
Are you looking forwards to driving up the hill over FoS?
Yes it will bring it all back. The last time I drove at Goodwood was in the original 33 EJB in the very early days of the festival. The original car now is rotting away at Gaydon – I think I am wearing better than it. I tried to buy it from Lord Stokes at the time but he wouldn’t sell it to me. So I will be driving a replica.
What’s your best memory of the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964?
Starting in Minsk which was a very dour place to go. Cold, miserable and grey, with babushkas on every floor of the hotel. And then ending up in sunny and beautiful Monte Carlo. People forget the rally was over 1400 miles, three days and four nights.
What were your expectations when you started?
We certainly wanted to try to win our class, but winning the event outright was a complete surprise. We surprised ourselves and the world, too. It wasn’t just motor sport then, we were driving for our country. It was more like the Olympics.
At what point did you realise you were leading?
During the rally we didn’t have a clue. Today everything is so instant, in those days it wasn’t. They had to get all the results from the different marshals to Monte Carlo and work out the results.
Is Mini doing all the right things these days?
Yes, I think so. I was very pleased Mini were taken over by BMW. They rescued Mini. The car today is different but it had to be different. It was a unique car at the time and it is still a unique car today.
Shouldn’t there be a Paddy Hopkirk special edition model this year?
There was going to be one but I think they have shelved it. There was a Paddy Hopkirk edition of 1000 cars in the US in 2004, which I helped launch.
Do you follow rallying today?
I would if I could find it. If you blink at the television you might miss it.
Hasn’t it always been that way?
No not at all! When we won the Monte it was front page news. And in 1966 when we got disqualified it was almost World War Three.
Any events you’d like to have done but didn’t?
The Paris Dakar. It’s a dangerous event but really fantastic, a real test of man and machine. Yes, I’d have a go in the Mini Paris-Dakar car. I’d have a go in any vehicle a manufacturer provided. But this one is very modern. Very nice though.
The name Paddy Hopkirk is as well known for motoring accessories as winning the Monte
Absolutely. But I sold that business. Now I am brand ambassador for Mini and they are very nice people to work with. I also work with Mini Sport and do a lot for my charity, Skidz, which helps youngsters pursue careers in the motor industry.
But your accessories were great. What was the most popular?
The bolt-on heel and toe throttle pedal!