Rallying legend Paddy Hopkirk, who won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini, has died aged 89.
Hopkirk, who had been ill for some time, passed away in Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, according to his family.
The Northern Irish rally driver inspired a generation with his gutsy victory in the most famous rally of them all, taking the improbable Mini to glory aged 31, alongside co-driver Henry Liddon.
Hopkirk, who was appointed MBE in 2016 as part of the New Years Honours list, started his motorsport career in the 1950s, taking his first victory in the Cairncastle hillclimb at the wheel of a Volkswagen Beetle in 1953. By 1955 he had switched to rallying and won his class in the Circuit of Ireland rally becoming the most successful Irish rally driver of the year three years running.
In 1958 he began to rally outside of the UK, competing on tests including the Alpine Rally and Safari Rally. He achieved a podium in a Sunbeam Rapier in 1962 on the Monte Carlo Rally, before a move to the British Motor Corporation was sealed, following a test of Pat Moss’s Austin Healey.
Hopkirk’s first appearance in a Mini would be the following year, when he finished sixth in the Monte Carlo Rally. But it was his victory a year later that made him a household name and to this day Hopkirk and Liddon remain the most recent all-British crew to win the event. Such was the clamour back home for Hopkirk after the win that he received messages of congratulations from the Prime Minister and even The Beatles.
Hopkirk would win several more rallies during the rest of his career, but nothing ever caught the public’s attention quite like the sight of his Mini on the Monte had.
After his rallying career Hopkirk would go on to be a brilliant campaigner, helping the BRDC to promote road safety along with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, which contributed to his 2016 MBE.
Speaking after his passing on Thursday, a statement from the family said: "First and foremost, Paddy was a loving husband, father and grandfather, whose passing will leave a huge hole in the lives of those closest to him.
"But Paddy also leaves an incredible legacy of motorsport and business success, while his hard work in support of British motorsport and the wider car industry continued until his final days.
"His family, friends and fans will never forget his sharp wit and wicked smile. He brought fun and joy to anyone in his company and inspired many."