60 years of Mini racing, celebrating the 60th Anniversary

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In 1956, British Motor Corporation recruited designer Alec Issigonis to develop an innovative vehicle. Because of a fuel shortage this vehicle had to be more efficient than anything on the market and Alec Issigonis designed a model that was indeed innovative and revolutionary. A model with a 4-cylinder engine, a small body and lighter weight was developed and soon history was made.

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John Cooper, a driver and constructor and an outstanding celebrity in international motor sporting, partnered with Alec Issigonis recognized that these miniature cars could be more than just a fuel efficient vehicle. With some tuning the concept of this fuel saving car turned into what became an iconic sports model. In 1950s the first Mini was launched as the Mark I and was included with British Motor Corporation's other models, the Morris Minor and Austin.

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In 1959, the first year of the Mini, John Cooper sent his driver Roy Salvadori to Monza in the very first Mini Cooper, a special one-off model built specifically to know more about its sporting potential. This new sports car immediately proved its qualities on the way to Monza, Salvadori covering the distance more than an hour faster than his colleague Reg Parnell, who just happened to be driving an Aston Martin DB4.

Motivated by initial success in the Monte Carlo Rally, Cooper suggested building a GT model based on the Mini. George Harriman, the CEO of BMC developed a smaller series of Mini Coopers with a modified 55hp engine providing an extra 21 horsepower. The transmission ratios were adjusted to the sporting potential of the engine and disc brakes on the front wheels ensured adequate stopping power. The top speed for this model was approximately 80 mph or 130 km/h.

In 1961 and 1963 the motor sports models Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S were developed with upgrades to the engines. The Mini Cooper S featured a 1071cc engine providing the ability to rev up the engine to impressive speeds. Maximum output was 70 hp at 6,200 rpm, maximum engine speed was 7,200 rpm. The Mini Cooper S became iconic in the racing world due to its early success.

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The years of 1963-1967 became the golden years for the Mini Coopers racing in the Monty Carlo Rally. In 1963 Rauno Aaltonen earned class victory in the Mini Cooper S and finished 3rd overall. In 1964 Paddy Hopkirk got first place overall and a year later Timo Makinen reached victory as well in his Cooper S. The following year, Makinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk finished first, second, and third but were disqualified due to the low beams on their Mini's.

Despite their disqualification, excitement and publicity was spreading throughout the racing communities about the Mini Coopers. One year later Rauno Aaltonen achieved another first place finish in the Monte Carlo Rally and the third overall victory of the Mini Cooper S.

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The Mini became the racing car of the decade with a number of wins and plenty of success in rally racing and also on road circuits. Racing careers were started and inspired behind the wheel of a Mini. And those inspired drivers captured Formula 1 Championships.

Still, the love and passion for these vintage Mini's is strong. Enthusiasts around the world are rebuilding classic Mini Coopers through shops and with their own hands to compete in events and carry the torch for generations to come.

It's safe to say the impact of the Cooper is much more than "mini".

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