Mini WRC Team drivers Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo visited Monte Carlo this week, as the brand's latest rally car met up with an iconic version from the 1960s.
Finish driver Rauno Aaltonen, who won the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally in a works Mini, was driving the 1960s version in the Rallye Monte Carlo Historique. When he reached the end of the rally in the early hours of the 2nd February, he was met by Meeke and Sordo.
Meeke and Sordo were on their way to Spain to put the Mini WRC test car through its paces. They stopped off in Monte Carlo to drive the car around the famous streets and greet Aaltonen.
Aaltonen, along with co-driver Helmut Artacker, covered 4,101 km on the rally from the start in Marrakech on the 26th February to the finish at Monte Carlo's harbour in the early hours of the 2nd February. “It has taken us a long time to get here and it was a good trip,” said Aaltonen. “In the old days a Mini in rallying form was rather uncomfortable, but in this Mini we had modern shock absorbers and it was so comfortable that after over 4,000 kilometres I am not tired at all. There was snow in places, but we were not told about this so we did not have the appropriate tyres and so lost over a hundred places. It was really busy on this last leg, we were really fighting hard and it was a great atmosphere.”
Another former Mini rallying great was present in Monte Carlo – Paddy Hopkirk, winner of the 1964 Rally Monte Carlo. The Northern Irishman was recently taken for a spin in the new Mini WRC by compatriot Meeke at Prodrive's test track. “It is very interesting to be here and I was delighted to see Rauno looking so well and the car looking so good,” said Hopkirk. “It is just great to see it all being revived. When we won it was not just motorsport news, but front page news and I even got a telegram from the Beatles and the Prime Minister and I was given the keys to Belfast. I do admire the talents of these guys. Kris took me around the Prodrive test track in the Mini WRC and it was absolutely fantastic.”
Visiting Monte Carlo allowed Meeke and Sordo to experience what started the Mini legend in rallying back in the sixties, something they will be hoping to continue. “It is great for Dani and me to be competing for Mini and taking up that legendary spirit,” explained Meeke. “Everything is going extremely well and I think the fundamental DNA of the car is very, very good. At this early stage of the development everyone is really excited as it seems to be hitting all the targets that were set out in the development phase.”
Sordo added: “I have driven the car less than Kris but I have been on both tarmac and gravel. Honestly the feel of the car was really good. We still need to improve in certain areas, but this is normal because the car is new. Our Mini is new to rallying but in Prodrive we have a lot of experience and they have achieved many things in the sport. Kris and I will try to do the best we can. At the moment the car is really good and getting better and better.”