Rally star Paddy Hopkirk named in honours list with MBE
More than 50 years after he shot to stardom by winning the Monte Carlo Rally, Paddy Hopkirk has finally been recognised in the New Year honours list with an MBE.
And unusually for a man who still retains a high profile as an ambassador for the Mini brand, it slipped under the radar in his native Northern Ireland.
Ulster-born but based for many years in Buckinghamshire, Hopkirk has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to motorsport and his work with young people through the SKIDZ charity.
It was in 1964 that he stunned the motorsport world by winning the 'Monte' in a little Mini Cooper, a giant-killing performance against the might of Mercedes and Ford which saw Hopkirk, co-driver Henry Liddon and the car rushed back to London to appear on stage on the top TV show of the week, Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
In was to earn Hopkirk everlasting fame but he went on to become the No 1 driver in the world in an era dominated by Scandinavians, winning many more rallies including the Acropolis, Sanremo and Alpine events as well as a then record five victories in the Circuit of Ireland.
Born Patrick Barron Hopkirk at Whitehouse on the shores of Belfast Lough, the 50th anniversary of his 'Monte' win was marked in 2014 with a Mini parade from Stormont and a gala dinner in the Titanic Building.
Self-deprecating as always, Paddy said: "First of all I'm not sure what it [the MBE] is exactly for. I'm just very honoured and I appreciate the people who have written [to nominate him].
"I was very, very surprised, it just came out of the blue. They certainly managed to keep it quiet. Nobody knows about it, except the people that wrote the letters."