Paddy Hopkirk’s win in the Monte-Carlo Rally 50 years ago was more than just another stat for the history books. It was a ground-breaker, a medium for cultural change. For one thing, the Monte back then was really big – the biggest rally of the year and one of the most widely-covered international sporting events of western Europe’s new year. For another, he won in a Mini – in a Morris Cooper S, to be precise – and minis, at the point, were the thing, whether you were talking Mary Quant or Sir Alec Issigonis. The talk, before the Monte, was of the big Ford Falcon Sprints prepared by Holman and Moody in Charlotte, North Carolina (two of which were to be driven by Graham Hill and Bo Ljungfeldt) – and of the other rally-tuned classics: the Ford (Dagenham) Cortina GTs of Vic Elford and Henry Taylor and of course Eric Carlsson’s Saab. It was Paddy, though, who on on handicap. He didn’t know he was close until he got to Monte-Carlo, where Bernard Cahier gave him the nod. Then it was a matter of completing that final stage without incident. He did, complete with white shirt and tie – and thus he changed the world. He received telegrams from the Prime Minister and from the Beatles. His name would live on for longer than anyone could imagine.
I spoke to Paddy recently about that Monte win and what it meant to him – then and now.