Racing Drivers


Paddy Hopkirk (1933 – 2022)

Paddy Hopkirk MBE (1933 – 2022)

Patrick Barron Hopkirk, known to all as Paddy, is famous as the man who won the Monte Carlo Rally with a Mini, but this was just one highlight of a long and very varied motor racing career.

Born in Northern Ireland he dropped out of an Engineering degree at Trinity College Dublin to take a job as a VW car salesman which enabled him to spend as much time as possible taking part in rallies, driving tests, and hillclimbs. Having started driving a VW Beetle in 1952/53, he won his first circuit race at Phoenix Park in 1955 at the wheel of a Triumph TR2.

1956 Paddy Hopkirk won the Tour of Ireland with this Triumph TR2.

With the same car he also won the Irish 900 Mile Rally and this brought him to the attention of competition managers who started to offer him drives in the work’s teams. This started with Standard Triumph until, after several years, he was invited to join the Rootes Group competition department in 1960 for whom he took part in major international rallies with Sunbeam Rapiers and shared a Sunbeam Alpine with Peter Jopp in the 1961 Le Mans 24 Hour Race and Sebring 12 Hours.

Hopkirk/Jopp Sunbeam

In 1962 he finished third in the Monte Carlo Rally and won the Circuit of Ireland for the third time.

Hopkirk then left Rootes for the British Motor Corporation competing initially with an Austin-Healey 3000 with which he finished second in the 1962 RAC Rally. From 1963 onwards Paddy’s name came to be inextricably linked to the Mini. As well as rallying it, he spent much of 1963 racing one in the British Saloon Car Championship.

[caption id="attachment_8182" align="aligncenter" width="552"] 1963 Streamlined MGB hardtop driven in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race by Hopkirk and Hutcheson

1964 was the year of his famous Monte Carl Rally win. Starting from Minsk in the Soviet Union with co-driver Henry Lyddon, they battled through ice, snow, fog and freezing conditions to emerge triumphant and bring the first win of many for the Mini in a major international rally.

1964 Rallye Monte Carlo. Hopkirk and Henry Lyddon started from Minsk in freezing conditions and gained the first major international win for the Mini.

Over the next few years Paddy’s victories at the wheel of Mini-Cooper S’s included the 1966 Austrian Alpine, the 1967 Circuit of Ireland, the 1967 Acropolis and the 1967 Alpine Rallies. He continued to race Minis in the British Saloon Car championship and took a class win in the 1964 Spa 24-Hour Race.

1968 Rallye Monte Carlo

He also became known as a successful transcontinental rally driver taking part in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon with Alec and Tony Nash. In an underpowered BMC/Austin/Morris 1800 ‘Land Crab’, after driving across Europe, through Turkey, Afghanistan, India and from one side of Australia to the other they took second place overall.

Hopkirk with Alec & Tony Nash in the British Leyland 1800 “Land Crab” with which they finished second in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon.

In 1970 he finished fourth in the London to Mexico World Cup event with a Triumph 2.5i and in 1977 he came third in the second London-to-Sydney Marathon with a Citroen CX2400.

Although it was his rally successes which made Paddy a household name, he also competed in major sports car races such as the Targa Florio, Sebring 12 Hours and the Le Mans 24 Hour Race with different MGs.

Paddy Hopkirk, President of the British Racing Drivers Club 2017-2019

After his retirement from active competition Paddy established an association with BMW as an Ambassador for the second generation MINI brand, and oversaw the introduction of a special edition Paddy Hopkirk Cooper S. He also gave his time freely to several charities including Wheelpower, SKIDZ (of High Wycombe) and the Integrated Education Fund for Northern Ireland. He was appointed MBE in 2016. Continuing the work started by Earl Howe and Humphrey Cook, from 2017 to 2019 he was President of the British Racing Driver’s Club.

Paddy Hopkirk lived for many years at Parsonage Farm, Penn.

Paddy Hopkirk outside Parsonage Farm, Penn, with the Mini 33 EJB in which he won the Monte Carlo Rallye in 1964.

He died 21st August 2022, and is buried at the end of the left-hand path in the graveyard, plot number 57A.

Hopkirk Mini sideways as usual. Ireland 1969?

Oliver Heal, August 2022.  Source: BRDC Obituary.

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