January 11, 2006
Horse 476 - The Day They Killed David
1966 is a memorable year for a couple of reasons. England won the World Cup of Football at Wembley when football finally "came home", and at the beginning of the year one of the memorable rip-offs happened in the world of sport.
The little BMC Mini in 997cc trim had showed to be quite the giant killer. In 1963 it had beaten much bigger cars and had even placed well, but in 1964 John Cooper's men allowed to turn the economical little car into a sports car. For the 1964 event the engine had been replaced with a racing version of the 1071cc variant. Also instead of just your average drivers the the contractees were Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Mäkinen; between them they represented what would have been the equivalent of 10 World Rally Championships if they had indeed existed back then.
In '64 the Mini trounced all opposition and then for '65 it was rewarded with the bigger 1275cc engine and it took the first 10 places. Perhaps there was a wee bit of embarrassment when the car refused to start for Princess Grace after the victory.
Then came a highly dicey decision in 1966: The Mini was the rightful winner – but disqualified. In 1966 the Mini armada went for their hat trick, the four Cooper teams being acknowledged as the favourites in the race and receiving lots of public interest. From the start, the teams lived up to this commitment, Mäkinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk leaving all the others far behind and finishing first, second and third at the end of the Rally. But then came one of the most questionable decisions in the history of the Monte Carlo Rally, the race commissioners determining in an 8-hour technical inspection after the event that the four additional headlights mounted on the radiator grille of the Mini Coopers failed to comply with French homologation rules.
And proceeding from this highly debatable point, the jury disqualified the first three cars. With the Lotus Cortina finishing fourth being disqualified for the same reason, Citroën driver Toivonen finally moved up to the top of the podium as the winner.
Although they did come back and win in 1967 and come 3rd in 1968, the Mini as a rally car was to be beaten by purpose built cars like the Lancia Stratos in future; indeed the Monte Carlo rally in 1967 has lost its shine as the premier rally in the world and had faded to being just another rally.
But it was 40 years ago, that they killed David to let Goliath win. To make matters worse, they did it in favour of a French car, Le Citroën... French for lemon?
Posted by Rollo at 14:39