Legend Paddy to launch Monte Carlo Rally from Paisley

MOTORSPORT legend Paddy Hopkirk will wave off the cars as the Monte Carlo Classic Rally starts in Paisley.

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Fifty years after his victory in the race made world news, the 80-year-old Northern Irishman will be on the start ramp with Renfrewshire Provost Anne Hall on Thursday.

They will flag off the 70 classic cars starting out on their epic journey to Monte Carlo.

His 1964 victory in a Mini, alongside co-driver Henry Liddon, was the last Monte victory by an all-British crew.

After winning that event, Hopkirk became a household name.

He introduced his own branded product range and becoming a global ambassador for BMW Mini.

Paddy famously learned to drive on an estate in Belfast in a car left to him in a will by a local priest.

He said: "When we won the event in 1964, it was completely unexpected.

"We were competing against much more expensive cars in an untried vehicle that was designed ostensibly as a district nurse's car, but we had a great team.

"It was amazing really.

"I've never had to wait for a table in a restaurant ever since and, of course, I have followed the event very closely each year.

"When I was asked if I could help send the cars off in Paisley, I said I'd be more than happy to do so and I am really looking forward to it.

"This year, I will be at the start of the event and at the finish.

"I will present the winner's trophy in Monaco, on behalf of the French organisers, the Automobile Club de Monaco, which is a real honour 50 years on."

Hopkirk previously started in a Monte in Scotland back in 1959 from Glasgow, expressing his relief at managing to leave the city "without hitting a tram".

In 1964, he and Liddon left for Monte Carlo from Minsk with the ­temperatures at minus 39ÚC and their famous number 37 Mini had to be towed onto the start line because of the extreme cold.

In order to keep the windscreen wash from freezing, some neat gin was added to the car's water flask.

He is not expecting anything quite so dramatic in Paisley.

He said: "The gin worked a treat and the smell in the car was excellent, too!

"In those days, ­communications were not the same so the journalists from all over the world were awaiting news at the finish in Monte Carlo.

"Someone actually phoned me at 4am to tell me we had won."

Preparations for the 2014 Monte Carlo Classic Rally are now reaching fever pitch, with the entries hitting 70.

Renfrewshire's Provost, Anne Hall, said: "It will be great to share a stage with a legendary figure like Paddy and I look forward to meeting him on the day.

"Being able to attract a showpiece day out with the prestige of the Monte Carlo Classic Rally shows that Paisley is really on the map as a venue for top-class events.

"With a crowd of thousands expected next week, it's going to be a great day for the whole area."



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