Patterson aiming to make his mark
It was hailed as a return to the glory days, back to the time when Paddy Hopkirk caused a sensation around the world by winning the Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini.
With the re-birth of the Mini team in late 2010, much of the focus was on this week’s return to Monte Carlo 48 years after Hopkirk’s unforgettable victory and the coincidence that an Ulsterman would be at the wheel.
Yes, the successor to Hopkirk’s Mini Cooper, the Countryman WRC, was back on the Monte stages today but not with Kris Meeke. As the project to re-enact the exploits of Hopkirk, Timo Makkinen and Rauno Aaltonen in the Sixties descends into disarray, Meeke finds himself sidelined, the mastermind of the project, David Richards, has stepped down and money is the issue everyone is talking about.
Two ‘works’ Minis were on the start line in Valence today, driven by Spaniard Dani Sordo and Pierre Campana, the Corsican replacing Meeke thanks to funding from the French Automobile Federation.
It was not how it was meant to be but even without Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle, the Irish were still to the fore in Valence with Chris Patterson having moved to the Ford team alongside former World champion Petter Solberg and Michael Orr now partnering another Ford driver, Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi.
And Craig Breen, who won the WRC Academy series last season, was starting out on his challenge for the World Super 2000 championship.