A detailed and moving tribute from the BMW Group PressClub USA notes that on Thursday, July 21, British motorsport idol Patrick Barron Hopkirk MBE passed away peacefully at home in Buckinghamshire.
Born in Belfast on April 14, 1933, Paddy – as he was affectionately known – began a fast-paced career as a racing and, notably, rally driver in the 1950s.
Hopkirk began his professional motorsport career in 1953 at the Circuit of Ireland, claiming the Hewison Trophy for the most successful Irish rally driver of the year in 1955. In the decades that followed he strung together much success with numerous engagements in various brands at major international ralliesr—the Safari Rally, the RAC Rally, the Acropolis Rally, the Tulip Rally, the Alpine Rally and many more.
Hopkirk’s first participation in the Monte Carlo Rally came in 1962, and he claimed a remarkable third place in a Sunbeam Rapier. A year later, sixth place followed with a classic Mini.
In 1964 Hopkirk finally etched himself into the motorsport history books in the classic Mini. In a dramatic duel with Swede Bo Ljungfeldt and his significantly more motorized Ford Falcon, Hopkirk delivered a showdown at the Col de Turini and finally won the overall standings, taking the first Monte victory for the Mini.
The surprise coup was celebrated frenetically in Great Britain, making the classic Mini a legend and Hopkirk the most famous rally driver overnight. The British Prime Minister sent congratulations and The Beatles sent a card with the words, “Now you’re one of us, Paddy.”
But what do numbers and victories say about a person? Hopkirk was also known among colleagues, family, friends and fans as a fair sportsman. In 1968, he and his co-driver Tony Nash were in the lead at the London-Sydney marathon and stopped their Austin to free a recently injured team-member from his burning vehicle.
Hopkirk’s name will reign forever in Mini lore. Our condolences to his surviving family.