Monte Carlo Rally 1967: Morris Cooper S…

Posted: September 29, 2015 in Icons & Iconoclasts
Tags: , , ,

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Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon head for victory in the Monte snow and ice, Mini Cooper S, January 14-20th 1967…

They won the alpine classic from the Ove Andersson/John Davenport Lancia Fulvia and Vic Elford/David Stone Porsche 911S.

By 1967 the Mini Cooper S was long established as a race and rally winner; in the Monte the cars won in 1964, 1965 and 1966, the cars driven by Paddy Hopkirk/Henry Liddon, Timo Makinen/Paul Easter and in ’66 Makinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk dominated the event.

They finished in that order only to have French officialdom throw them out, and Roger Clark’s  4th placed Lotus Cortina, advancing Finnish Citroen driver Pauli Toivonen to a hollow win.

The cars ‘were excluded for having iodine vapour, single filament bulbs in their standard headlamps instead of double-filament dipping bulbs’, this was a bit of French bullshit which allowed a Citroen win…

The Mini’s advantage was rammed home in 1967 when Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon won the event one last time, the age of the Mini was coming to an end, the ‘rally reign’ of the Ford Escort Twin-Cam/RS1600 and other more powerful specialised cars was about to begin…

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The works Morris Cooper S #144 Timo Makinen/Paul Easter 41st and #178 Simo Lampinen/M Wood Plane is the Douglas DC4 based ATL-98 Carvair. (unattributed)

Rauno Aaltonen was born on January 7, 1938 his teenaged ‘need for speed’ initially satisfied competing in speedboats and later motor bikes on speedways, motocross and in road racing becoming the first Finn to win a TT event in 1956 at Hedemora, Sweden.

He started rallying at 18 after deciding that ‘bikes were a bit too hazardous after several racing accidents’ competing in both Mercedes Benz 170S sedan and Saab 93B, a ‘real rally car’.

He competed in the World Rally Championship throughout the 1970s and was a factory driver for BMC, Ford, Lancia, BMW and Datsun over the decades. Prior to the WRC’s formation he won the European Rally Championship championship in 1965 and the Finnish Rally Championship in 1961 and 1965.

He was victorious in the following events; the ’61 Warsaw Rally and Rally of 1000 Lakes both in Mercedes 220SE, the 1964 Liege-Sofia-Liege in a Healey 3000 Britains’ RAC, the Polish, Munich-Vienna-Budapest and Czechoslovakian Rallies, all in 1965 in Minis. He won the 1966 Tulip, Vltava and Czechoslavakian Rallies, the Monte as described here in 1967 and Australia’s Southern Cross Rally in 1977 in a Datsun Violet 710.

In circuit racing he contested the Spa 24 Hour in a BMW in 1958, the ’65 Sebring 12 Hour, Targa Florio and Le Mans 24 Hours in factory Austin Healey Sprites, also doing some of these enduro’s for BMC in 1966-68.

In 1966 he partnered Bob Holden to a Bathurst 500 win in a Cooper S at Mount Panorama and in a nice bit of symmetry also raced the event in 1991 in a Toyota Corolla with Holden.

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Mini; unitary construction, 1275cc pushrod OHV engine fed by 2 SU carbs. 4 speed box, slippery diff, disc front and drum rear brakes. (Jiro Yamada)

Aaltonen related his 1967 Monte win to Sympatico.caAutos…

In 1962, Aaltonen crashed his Mini at Monte Carlo: ‘I was stuck in the burning car. I could see pastel colors, you know, and I was hearing classical music. Then I could hear my co-driver calling me to climb out, but the seatbelts were already melted, so I had to wiggle out.’

‘We run the col de Turini twice, both directions. It’s very difficult: cliffs, rocks, narrow roads…”

‘We arrived at the beginning of the last stage leading by 12 seconds. Vic Elford was second in a Porsche 911, but he was in front of the road, starting ahead. We listened to that six-cylinder, the feeling of power! He disappeared down the road.

‘It was our turn. The man with the flag counts down from 10, but he stops at four. There’s an accident on the hill, the ambulance rushes up. Then a snowstorm starts. You could see the snowflakes floating down. In theory, it could be beautiful. For us, it was hell. The spikes in our tires don’t work in the snow and we couldn’t see the road – everything was white.’

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The winning Cooper S of Aaltonen/Liddon. (unattributed)

Today, the marshals cancel special stages for less serious incidents. Back then, the show just went on and the countdown resumed.

‘First gear. Wheelspin. 8,000 rpm, hardly moving. Second gear. Wheelspin. We couldn’t get any grip. Henry Liddon, my co-driver from Bristol, England, has a dry sense of humor. He says when we get to the top of the hill, ‘two and a half minutes down’. No way – but in rally, you never give up.’

What Aaltonen, and Liddon for that matter, didn’t know is that this joke would become reality in the most spectacular way.

‘We drove back down the mountain really fast: third gear, 140 km/h. The spikes were working better now. Suddenly, under the snow there was a patch of ice. We started sliding, rocks on the inside of the turn, cliffs on the outside. I saw that there are these concrete blocks that would be safe to hit: they would stop the car from going over.’

Any sane man would have done the same. Going down a cliff at the Col de Turini is something you simply don’t want to do even if they paid you a million dollars.

Aaltonen wasn’t paid that much, but he made an almost suicidal decision: ‘You never give up. So I aimed between the concrete blocks. I knew it wasn’t a sheer drop, maybe 45 degrees and with trees.’

Ah, no problem there, then…

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Battery of lights legal in 1967… (unattributed)

‘We were flying in the air. It looked like we were in a fairytale. These boulders looked like giants.’

Amazingly, the Mini and its crew survived the drop: ‘We landed on soft snow between trees and huge boulders. This was purely good luck, as one cannot steer the car while airborn. Had we already left the road, there was no point in stopping as the Mini would instantly sink deep.’

He admits that they had no idea where they were going.

‘Once we had found a road and noticed it was the special stage, we understood how lucky we had been. Nobody could purposely find that kind of route between the trees and boulders – yet, in fact, it shortened the route.’

The accident worked to Aaltonen’s advantage: ‘We won by five seconds. It was a huge shortcut. That was not skill, it was good luck’, he concedes. ‘I told my co-driver to shut-up his mouth and don’t tell anything.’ It’s something Aaltonen revealed only after 20 years.

Their was perhaps some Karma in all of this given the bureaucratic nonsense the year before…

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Aaltonen and Henry Liddon still in the car at the Monte’s end. (unattributed)

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Hero’s welcome for the victors back in the UK. (unattributed)

Credits…

Team Dan Rally archive, aaltonenmotorsport.com, sympatico.ca Autos

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