Paddy Hopkirk was among the best known rally drivers of the 1960s with victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally his best-known achievement. He enjoyed a lifelong career in the motor aftermarket and was named President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club in 2017.
Education and early career
Hopkirk was born in Belfast in 1933 and completed his education at Trinity College, Dublin. He began his competition career with an Austin Seven but had swapped to a Volkswagen Beetle by the time he won the Irish Rally Championship in 1955. That helped attract the attention of Standard Triumph competition boss Ken Richardson and Hopkirk drove a Standard 10 on the following year’s RAC Rally.
Works driver with Standard and Rootes
He broke down in Yorkshire but had done well enough to be offered an extended programme in 1957 which included finishing third in the Tulip Rally. He won the 1958 Circuit of Ireland with a Triumph TR3 in his final season with the team.
The next four years were spent driving a Rootes Rapier during which time he repeated his Circuit of Ireland success and finished third in the Monte Carlo Rally in both 1961 and 1962.
Success with a BMC Mini
It was with a Mini Cooper S that Hopkirk is most associated. He joined the Stuart Turner-managed BMC team in 1963 and won that year’s Tour de France Automobile on handicap and was second on the Tulip Rally. He also won his class in the Le Mans 24 Hours, a race he started six times, when sharing an MG B with Alan Hutcheson.
There was further success in 1964 with victory in the Monte Carlo Rally spreading his fame to a wider audience. Class winner in the 24-hour races at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans (again) that year, he scored his fourth victory in the Circuit of Ireland in 1965. 1966 included disqualifications from the Monte Carlo and Acropolis Rallies, having won on the road in Greece.
He enjoyed a superb 1967 despite the Mini Cooper S now showing its age. That included a fifth success in the Circuit of Ireland and victories in the Coupe des Alpes and Acropolis Rally, Hopkirk allowed to keep that Greek victory that year. He was second on the following year’s London-Sydney marathon.
Life after rallying
He was named a Member of the British Empire in 2016 and succeeded Derek Warwick as President of the BRDC in October 2017.