The mountain fastness lies silent under the snow. The harsh track is lit by headlamps wavering and darting as they approach. With a throaty burble a red mini slides into view - a tiny thing against such a backdrop. A bustling red brick in a bleak, white landscape. Rocks scour the underbelly of the car as it clatters and careers down the track, rushing head long to the warmth and sophistication of Monte Carlo. It will look out of place - but !!IT WILL WIN!!
Few number plates in the history of British motor sport evoke such emotion as '33 EJB'. Paddy Hopkirk and his red Mini won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964. Paddy, a jovial Irishman, was an aggressive driver, hunched bulkily over the wheel. He never mastered left-foot braking, unlike his Scandinavian team mates (Timo Makinen and Rauno Aaltonen), who brought this technique to Britain.
However, in the popular imagination Paddy Hopkirk is the name you always associate with the Mini and the Monte. The Mini is always red and white, festooned with a bank of spot and foglamps over the grill, screaming through a muddy, tree-strewn rally stage, the car flicking and darting, in the air, crunch, tyres scrabbling for grip as the low sump guard gouges into the track, the tail jiggling sideways as the driver it out to line up for a breathless, flat-out blast down a slippery mountain pass.
After the win in 1964, Timo Makinen repeated the result in 1965 with one of the greatest drives ever. He was the only non-penalised car in the whole event. In other words, he never arrived late to a time control or put a wheel wrong in over 3.000 miles of competition.
In January 1966, the team, confident of another victory, set out for Monte Carlo with Paddy Hopkirk in 'GRX5D', Rauno Aaltonen in 'GRX55D' and Timo Makinen in 'GRX555D'. All the cars were Mini Cooper 1275cc S models, and were built to comply with Group One racing regulations.
As in the previous two years, the Minis could not be caught and quickly showed their supremacy!! Just before the final section of the rally, an odd notice appeared at rally HQ stating that all competing cars had to be fitted with both a driving beam and passing beam!
After the final leg of the rally, THE MINIS FILLED THE TOP THREE PLACES!!! - a sensational result.
The French officials could not believe it and set about scrutineering the three cars in a desperate attempt to find an irregularity. Eight hours later, the Minis were disqualified because of their headlamps! The 'Frogs' had pulled a fast one. However, the enormous world-wide publicity for the team and the Mini, increased sales enormously.
All British rally fans will always believe that we came 1st, 2nd and 3rd in this rally - despite what the record books say!!!