Obituary – Paddy Horkirk – Motor Racing Icon that piloted the Classic Mini to its first Monte Carlo Rally win in 1964
His car only had a small 1,071cc engine and was up against much bigger and stronger opposition, cars which were, on paper, four times more powerful. His success inspired film-makers to feature Mini Coopers in the classic 1969 film The Italian Job, where they slalomed through the winding streets of Turin in dramatic chases.
- Died: 21st July, 2022
- Details of death: He passed way due to age related ailments.
Paddy Hopkirk’s victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally was such an event that he, his navigator, Henry Liddon, and their car, a Mini Cooper, were invited to appear on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, an ITV show with an audience that sometimes approached 20 million.
In January 1964 he and Liddon made their selection from seven designated starting points for “the Monte”. Rejecting Glasgow, Athens, Lisbon, Oslo, Paris and Frankfurt, they chose to set off from Minsk, then in the Soviet Union. Hopkirk took along a batch of nylon stockings, which he swapped for a large tin of best Beluga caviar, planning to sell it to the chef of a top Monaco hotel. Competing against more powerful cars from Ford, Mercedes, Saab and others, Hopkirk and Liddon negotiated roads made treacherous by snow and ice to secure the trophy, presented to them by Princess Grace. The caviar was consumed as part of their victory celebrations, also attended by Alec Issigonis, the car’s designer.
The rally, a three-day midwinter event in which competitors set off from all points of Europe to converge on the principality, with the winner judged via a complicated handicap system, was closely followed by television and the newspapers. Victory for a little British car that symbolised the revival of Britain’s cultural energy was seen as a cause for national celebration. The Beatles sent a congratulatory telegram, as did the prime minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
In 2016 he was appointed MBE for charitable activities, including support for Wheelpower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, and Skidz, which provided experience of working with cars for young people, some of whom restored Hopkirk’s original bath chair before its installation in the British Motor Museum at Gaydon in Warwickshire. He was an ambassador for the Institute of Advanced Motorists and a consultant to BMW on its modern Minis.
Hopkirk, a convivial Northern Irishman who has died aged 89, had become and would remain a major figure in British motor sport, as a rally and racing driver, the owner of a successful business selling car accessories, president of the Historic Rally Car Register and a vice-president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.
In 1967 he married Jennifer Manser. She survives him, along with their children, Katie, Patrick and William, and six grandchildren.
Date of birth: 14th April 1933
Date of Death: 21st July 2022 (aged 89)