Paddy Hopkirk MBE – rally legend to open Sound of Speed 2018
Today the media coverage on motor racing is focussed on Lewis Hamilton and F1. Back in the 1960’s long-distance rallying was the hotly contested by the works teams and widely reported and followed. The Monte Carlo Rally was the best-known event of its type in the world and in 1964 Paddy Hopkirk MBE took a tiny Mini Cooper S to a famous victory there beating the mighty works teams of Mercedes, Lancia, Saab, and Volvo. Sound of Speed and The Rotary Club of High Wycombe is delighted to have such a motor racing legend to open the high-performance car event in August. The delegates on the day can also look forward to a replica of the Mini Cooper S that secured Paddy his title in 1964.
Paddy’s Monte Carlo race drove the then Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home to send a congratulatory telegram as did the Beatles. The car was flown straight from Monte Carlo back to England to star in Sunday Night at the London Palladium. That was the biggest TV programme in the land then: it used to get 28 million viewers.
Paddy started rallying in Ireland in the 1950’s and was successful from the start. He drove VW Beetles, then his own TR2 before being given an opportunity of a drive in a Standard 8 for the Tulip Rally and the new Sunbeam Alpine in the Rally of the Midnight Sun.
Drives in TR3’s were followed by a Works contract to drive Rapiers in the Alpine and East African Safari competitions. Then there was circuit racing in a Rapier and in 1962 a works drive at Le Mans in an Alpine.
BMC employed Stuart Turner as Competition Manager and Paddy soon joined the team driving Healey 3000’s and then the Mini Cooper S in the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally finishing sixth followed by Le Mans in an MGB finishing twelfth. After the famous 1964 victory, drives continued in a whirlwind of different cars on circuits and roads. In 1966 the Monte Carlo Minis of Makiinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk finished 1-2-3 only for the scrutineers to take the cars apart and eventually to disqualify them due to using incorrect wiring on the lights!
In 1968 BMC merged with Leyland and the budgets tightened and finally, in 1970 the axe fell on the competitions department so Paddy, now a family man with a growing business, hung up his helmet.
A few outings since like the 1977 London to Sydney Marathon in a Citroen CX finishing third and the Pirelli Classic Marathon, which Paddy and Alec Poole won in 1990; and a run on the 1994 Monte Carlo Rally to celebrate 30 years since his win in Mini registered L33 EJB.
Paddy does lots of work for charities including Wheelpower and of course today for the Sound of Speed Festival. He is also President of the British Racing Drivers Club an organisation that owns Silverstone.
The Rotary Club of High Wycombe would, once again, like to thank Paddy Hopkirk for being present and to open the event in August.