This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Mini Cooper S taking its first victory in the Monte Carlo rally. The triumph went on to give the humble Mini and its driver, Paddy Hopkirk, a firm place in the history of international motorsport.
The classic Mini made its debut in 1959, powered by an 850cc A-series engine developing just 34bhp. It was John Cooper who first spotted that the Mini’s excellent handling characteristics gave it real racing potential; the only thing lacking was power.
In 1963, the Cooper S was launched, gaining a substantial boost of power from early Cooper models. It used the BMC A-Series engine; however its capacity was increased to 1071cc, meaning 70bhp and a top speed of 90mph. The modifications meant it finally had the grunt to win.
The pairing of legendary rally driver Paddy Hopkirk and the Cooper S remains to this day one of the best partnerships in motorsport history.
The Mini's small dimensions, low weight and sharp handling meant that what it lacked in sheer straight-line power, it made up for in the corners. The Cooper S was piloted to victory in the Monte Carlo rally twice more, first in 1965 with Timo Mäkinen at the wheel and again in 1967, driven by Rauno Aaltonen.