• PAYCE Head Office, Sydney NSW.

Mini Coopers to race for PAYCE 50th Anniversary

This year's Muscle Car Masters event at Sydney Motorsport Park on 29-30 October will feature a special all-Mini race on Sunday to commemorate 50 years to the month since a swarm of Minis conquered the Mount Panorama track at Bathurst in a most impressive way.

Not only did a 1275cc four-cylinder Mini Cooper S win the race outright against V8s, the first nine places were filled by the 'flying bricks' as they are affectionately known. No other make or model, either before or since, can boast such a resounding record.

Milestone occasion attracts historic cars.

To mark the milestone occasion, the Australian Racing Drivers Club and the Historic Touring Car Association of NSW have organised a commemorative race.

Ray Dean, president of the HTCANSW said up to 30-40 Minis from around Australia are expected to compete for the 50th Anniversary Bathurst Victory Trophy, donated by long-time motorsport supporter, PAYCE.

"We are pleased to have PAYCE involved with the race as they are also the category sponsor of the Group N championship, which caters for historic touring cars of the '50s, '60s and early '70s era and includes the original Minis," he said.

PAYCE's Managing Director, Brian Boyd congratulated the ARDC and HTCANSW for arranging the anniversary race and special celebrations.

"The Minis hold a special place in Australian motorsport history and the entry list for 1966 contained some of great international and local names in the sport," he said.

"It's wonderful to see the Mini Cooper S continues to provide lots of excitement and challenges in today's Group N races, cheered on by a huge fan-base of all ages."

Mr Dean said 1966 presented a window of opportunity for the Morris Cooper S to take out the Bathurst endurance race following a change to the rules.

"The previous year's race was won by a Ford Cortina GT500, a 'special' model designed with the Bathurst race in mind and limited to a production run of just 100 to comply with the regulations," he said.

"The Morris Cooper Ss that ran that year were certainly not disgraced, taking third place outright and filling six of the top ten placings, but were no match for Ford's 'Bathurst special'.

"In 1966, the race had a new sponsor and became the Gallaher 500. The cars were still straight off the showroom floor, but this time a minimum of 250 had to have been registered before the race and Ford was not interested in building additional Ford Cortina GT500s to make them eligible, as they had a V8 Ford Falcon in final development for 1967.

In 1966, there were four classes, based on purchase price (the country changed to decimal currency in February). Class A for cars costing up to $1,800; Class B $1,801-$2,040; Class C $2,041-$2,700 and Class D $2,701 - $4,000. The Mini Cooper S slotted into Class C, the cheaper Mini Cooper into Class B and the entry model, the Morris Mini 850 and slightly more expensive Morris Mini Deluxe into Class A.

Of the 53 cars entered, Minis made up nearly half the field, with 17 Mini Cooper Ss, four Mini Coopers, two Morris Mini Deluxes and a lone Mini 850.

Mr Dean said it was hard to go past a Mini Cooper S for the best chance of an outright win in 1966 and when the entry list was released it was clear most serious teams agreed. The model had already proved its stamina with back-to-back wins in the Monte Carlo Rally in Europe and the factory was enthusiastically supporting teams and overseas drivers to add Bathurst to its fast growing list of successes.

International experienced drivers man the BMC team .

Heading the official BMC factory team were three experienced international drivers, matched with successful local Mini drivers: Finnish rally champion, Rauno Aaltonen paired with local ace, Bob Holden, British champion, Paddy Hopkirk paired with local champ, Brian Foley and European champion, Timo Makinen paired with John French (although local Steve Harvey was a last minute replacement for rally-committed Makinen).

Mr Dean said cars could have components blue-printed and balanced, but had to stay within factory tolerances.

Interesting Tale emerges - the stuff of legend.

"After the race an interesting tale was to emerge as to the strong performance by the Aaltonen/Holden Cooper S. The wily Bob Holden wasn't satisfied with his car's preparation at the local Zetland factory and believed he could do better using external resources. He secretly arranged for a more thorough blue-printing and balancing of components outside the factory.

"Bob even drove the car to Canberra in the dead of night to run it in and had it back at the factory with team-mates and opposition none the wiser.

"The story of the race itself was equally fascinating," Mr Dean said.

"Sunday's grid line-up was determined by the price classes, with the most expensive Class D cars at the front and cheapest Class A cars at the rear, despite the fact that the Class D V8-powered Studebaker Larks and VC Valiants were not the fastest qualifiers.

"On the second lap, the wallowing, under-braked larger cars were swamped by the fastest Minis, first by Rauno Aaltonen and then by Brian Foley who went to take the lead on lap 10 before pitting with oil pressure problems.

"As the race progressed, local drivers acquitted themselves well, but clearly the Aaltonen/Holden Mini was the fastest in the field and as the chequered flag came out after 130 laps, Rauno was a full lap ahead of the Mini Cooper Ss of Fred Gibson/Bill Stanley and two laps ahead of third placegetters, Bruce McPhee/Barry Mulholland."

Another six Cooper Ss crossed the line before a V8 VC Valiant automatic made it home in 10th place. Morris Coopers also took out the first three places in Class B, with Don Holland/ Peter Cray taking the class win from Doug Chivas/Doug Chivas Jnr and Laurie Stewart/Ray Morris. The fastest lap of the race was by Frank Matich with a time of 3 minutes 10 seconds.

1967 saw the introduction of the XR Ford Falcon GT, which went on to win the race, but again the Mini Cooper S was a strong performer, with Bob Holden and Tony Fall outright fifth and other Mini Cooper Ss filling sixth, seventh, eighth and tenth placings.

The whereabouts of the winning Mini Cooper S, race number 13C, are unknown, as it was later stolen and never recovered. At Muscle Car Masters it will be represented by a tribute car in race form and Rauno Aaltonen and Bob Holden, along with other well-known Mini racers from the past, will be track-side to reminisce with fans and join in the weekend celebrations.

All Mini Cooper S owners are being invited to join a display of their cars in the Pit Straight Car Club Corral and watch the Minis battle it out between themselves and in the Group N races when they take on the likes of Ford Mustangs and Holden Toranas.

View a video of the 1966 Gallaher 500 at

Go Team PAYCE!