RIP Paddy Hopkirk MBE 1933-2022

| 22 Jul 2022
Classic & Sports Car – RIP Paddy Hopkirk MBE 1933-2022

Rally legend Paddy Hopkirk passed away yesterday, 21 July, aged 89.

Born Patrick ‘Paddy’ Barron Hopkirk in Northern Ireland, he is best remembered for his now legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo win, with co-driver Henry Liddon aboard Mini Cooper ‘S’ 33 EJB. They are still the most recent all-British crew to win the event.

That victory, on 21 January 1964, propelled Hopkirk to stardom and made him a household name, as the underdog-turned-giant-slayer won the hearts and minds of rally fans – and the wider public.

The triumph also secured him the freedom of Belfast and, together with 33 EJB, a spot on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, then the UK’s biggest TV show – he was later appointed an MBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours list.

Classic & Sports Car – RIP Paddy Hopkirk MBE 1933-2022

A gutsy drive in challenging conditions secured Hopkirk and Liddon their 1964 Rallye Monte-Carlo win

“Although the Mini was only a little family saloon, technically it had a lot of advantages,” he said, speaking to Mini on the 50th anniversary of his most famous victory.

“Its front-wheel drive and front-mounted transverse engine were a great advantage, and the fact the car was smaller and the roads were ploughed, they were quite narrow, so I suppose that was an advantage.

“We were very lucky – the car was right, everything happened at the right time and came together at the right moment.”

His teammates Timo Mäkinen/Patrick Vanson and Rauno Aaltonen/Tony Ambrose finished fourth and seventh respectively – and each driver would go on to win the Monte for Mini, Mäkinen with Paul Easter in 1965, and Aaltonen with Liddon in ’67.

Classic & Sports Car – RIP Paddy Hopkirk MBE 1933-2022

Hopkirk reunited with 33 EJB

Although that single success is what Hopkirk is most widely known for, his driving talents brought him a great many other accolades in a career that began with rallying an Austin Chummy while at university in Dublin – he later dropped out of his studies to earn money to fund his motorsport.

Success in Ireland and then further afield led to opportunities including tackling the 1959 Safari Rally in a works Hillman Husky, a seat that had been due to be filled by 1958 Formula One champion Mike Hawthorn, before his untimely death on 22 January 1959.

The Hillman didn’t last the course, but this lead to four years as a factory Rootes driver, a class win in a Touring Car race supporting the 1960 British Grand Prix, driving a Rapier, being one of his more unusual assignments.

In 15 seasons as a works driver first for Standard-Triumph, then Rootes and then, of course, BMC, he achieved great success and famously, in the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon, relinquished his hopes of a win to rescue then-leaders Lucien Bianchi, who’d won Le Mans earlier that year, and Jean-Claude Ogier, after their Citroën DS21 was involved in an accident and burst into flames.

Classic & Sports Car – RIP Paddy Hopkirk MBE 1933-2022

Car 37 took an unexpected win on the 1964 Monte

Indeed, Hopkirk competed full-time until 1970, and even in his so-called retirement he found himself back in the hot seat and adding to his remarkable tally of results, including a third-place finish in the 1977 London-Sydney Marathon, plus victories at the 1982 RAC Golden 50 and 1990’s Pirelli Classic Marathon.

When a Rally Hall of Fame was established in 2010, he was one of its first four inductees.

He was also a member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, serving as Vice President and President (2017-’19), promoted safer driving on the road through the Institute of Advanced Motorists, supported a great many charities and established a thriving automotive-parts business.

After Hopkirk’s passing yesterday at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire, he leaves a lasting legacy that his wife Jennifer, children Katie, Patrick and William, and six grandchildren, as well as a legion of motorsport fans around the world, can be very proud of.

Images: Getty/Mini


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