Wednesday 29 January 2014

Rally - Monte Tales

Paddy Hopkirk in 1964
Well, it looks as though there was no fairy tale finish at the end of this year’s Historic Monte Carlo Rally, and no last minute surprises. Indeed it looks as though there were no Brits in the top ten, or even the top twenty. Indeed the top 50!

50 years after the Mini’s first win, there was no likelihood of history repeating itself. No chance of a British crew repeating Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon’s unexpected victory half a century ago.

Andrew McAlpine in 2014
Although that victory is known to many, less well known is the fact that the Mini almost scored a hat-trick of Monte wins. Timo Mäkinen won it the following year in 1965 and Rauno Aaltonen won in 1967.

So what happened in 1966? It was the night of the French long knives. They couldn’t have a British car winning their main international event three years in a row, could they? Could it have had anything to do with the anti-British Charles de Gaulle, who was President of France at the time, sticking his nose in? After all, this was the guy who vetoed Britain’s entry into the EEC.

Anyway, Mäkinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk in three works Minis dominated the rally and crossed the finish line in that order. Victory was theirs, or so they thought. Then the French ‘commissars’ disqualified the trio, handing victory to Finland’s Pauli Toivonen (Henri’s dad) – in a Citroen. Even Roger Clark’s Ford Cortina was disqualified for the same reason.

And now, before you go saying ‘rules is rules’ these were the same lights that Mini had used the previous two years, while the winning Citroen had similar lamps although theirs were deemed legal because the bulbs “were fitted as standard on some models”.

 Bitter? Me? Not a bit of it, but I never did take to de Gaulle. Maybe that was because he was once quoted as saying: “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first - nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” And maybe that also applied to his sense of sporting fairness!

And so to McAlpine and Gallagher (see earlier Monte preview). The works replica Mini which was 
seeded number 1 did actually finish with the figure ‘1’ in the final classification – 166th to be exact, out of 257 finishers. They weren’t last, but they did have one hell of a tour of restaurants on the way to Monaco. Now that’s how to go rallying. 


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