“This little bomb of a car is what has been missing from the fleet” said Mark O’Donnell, HERO-ERA Arrive and Drive Manager. “It has literally muscled it’s way into the showroom here at Bicester Motion, shoving the others out of the way at is did on the rally stages in the early sixties. We now have a full range of Arrive Drive rally cars from vintage AC March to classic MGA with the new Mini Cooper completing the set. Naturally the little star has taken centre stage!”
The Mini burst onto the competition scene after the legendary engineer John Cooper convinced designer Sir Alec Issigonis and BMC that the revolutionary car with it’s transverse mounted engine and gearbox could go from shopping car to competition car on the track. With a wheel at each corner and surprising space inside, the upgraded road version, the Mini Cooper, was born in 1961 but not before the little bomb had proved it’s incredible handling, winning the very first RAC Special Stage at Monument Hill in 1960.
In original 850 cc engine format, the little ‘buzz box’ with it’s front mounted engine over the driving wheels enjoyed great handling over the rough and slippery stages. Even with less than forty bhp the Mini blew the opposition away in what was to eventually to make the Mini part of rally folklore.
To revel in the Mini driving experience on a rally is a must. The little car will outperform your own expectations of just what is achievable, throwing it around on a test is encouraged just to feel that great power to weight ratio and pure agility.
The Mini has starred in films like ‘The Italian Job,’ taken centre stage at the London Palladium theatre after its Monte Carlo Rally win in 1964, whilst film stars like Peter Sellers owned very special Radford versions of the Mini Cooper S for road use.
In the 1959 RAC Rally, the four 850cc engined Minis entered had very few modifications for rallying. Three retired but David Seigle-Morris and Vic Elford managed second in class in their private Mini. They developed a unique driving technique together, Seigle-Morris steered and worked the pedals whilst Elford set the car up for the corners using the handbrake!
The 997cc Mini Cooper enjoyed 70 bhp as first driven in that specification by European Rally Champion Rauno Aaltonen and Finn Timo Makinen, who took fifth and seventh overall in the 1962 RAC Rally.
The first S type Mini Cooper produced 92 bhp with a 1071 cc engine. Mini legend Paddy Hopkirk took fourth overall in the 1963 RAC Rally in the 1071 Cooper S. Two months later, Paddy scored the fabulous 1964 Monte Carlo Rally win in the classic red and white works colours of BMC. In the final 1275 cc version, Timo Makinen won the Tulip Rally in 1964 and a year later Rauno Aaltonen gave the Mini Cooper S it’s first RAC Rally win. The Monte Carlo Rally successes for the Mini were in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
The Mini is still winning 58 years later. In 2019 on the HERO-ERA Icelandic Saga, Owen Turner and Rachel Vestey slayed the Porsche, BMW and Mercedes opposition in the land of Ice and Fire. The wind rain and ice proved no obstacle to the mighty Mini as it proved just what a competitive proposition the car still is.
In November’s stern test and most competitive rally of the year, the 2019 RAC Rally of the Tests, there was another giant killing act. The RAC Rally of the Tests was finally won by Steve Entwistle after previous attempts achieved podiums in his Mini, but not the win. He was navigated by six times winning navigator Mark Appleton, but they were both honoured that Paddy Hopkirk had lent Steve his ex works replica RAC Rally Mini Cooper S, registration 8 EMO, used by Paddy in his first season with the BMC team in 1963. The car made a wonderful sight and sound for the spectators, including five thousand of them at the new Test inside the NEC as the Classic Car Show was in full swing.
In the biggest endurance event on the HERO-ERA national calendar, Le Jog 2019, Kevin Haselden and Gary Evans were top five 5th overall in their Mini Cooper S, but most importantly they were awarded the much sought after Gold medals which means they achieved real historic rally status.
In the final rally of the truncated 2020 season, the Per Ardua Ad Infinitum based at Bicester Heritage, Mini expert and regular winner in his little ‘buzz box’ Darell Staniforth, was navigated by his daughter Nicky to an amazing second overall. They pushed Porsche 911 mounted winners Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan hard all day, the Mini taking the lead by lunchtime only to lose it by a small margin later on.
Mini fans, it is time to consider the Mini Cooper Arrive Drive experience for yourself. The Arrive and Drive Mini Cooper is a 1968 model in full rally specification and naturally it is in BMC red with that distinctive white roof.
With a 1293 cc engine it produces 85 bhp with a top speed of 95 mph and 0-60 time of 9.6 seconds. The Arrive Drive Mini has a 50 litre tank to give you a range of 306 miles, the car is fully prepared and waiting thrill the first crew to hire it!