THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.1
  January 2000

Vol.2 Home Page | Index Page

Pit Stop.
Reproduced from ‘Racing Car News’ February 1965.


“Racing Car News” representative in London, Wilson McCarmen, talks with 1965 Monte Carlo Rally Outright Winners, TIMO MAKINEN and PAUL EASTER …

RCN: Well, Timo, your last rally before the Monte Carlo was the R.A.C., and in that rally you finished second overall and won the grand touring category with a big Healy, an Austin Healy 3000, but for the Monte Carlo Rally you chose to drive a Mini Cooper. Why did you chose a Mini rather than any other car for the Monte? TM: After I read this year’s regulations, I thought the Mini had a very good chance to win this rally.

RCN: Because of the handicap? TM: Yes, and after that all the team used Minis.

RCN: And again for this event, which is nearly 3000 miles long counting the mountain circuit, there are 9 starting points and of all the starting points why did you chose Stockholm? TM: I have started twice from Paris, and I don’t really like the French roads nor do I really like their mountains and it was possible there was snow there, but starting from Stockholm the road is never blocked and there isn’t very much snow because of snow ploughs and you can go over this road very quickly.

RCN: I see, so under all weather conditions you can be sure of getting through from Stockholm? TM: Yes, after we go through Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia, there is no traffic control and quite good roads and you can take it easy.

RCN: So you think from Stockholm it is a pretty easy run through to the merging point at St. Claude? TM: Yes, this is the only start we prefer to anywhere else, but it doesn’t mean anything.

RCN: How long did you spend doing recce (reconnaissance) beforehand – before the rally? TM: Nearly three weeks. PE: Yes, you did ten days before Christmas and about ten days after Christmas, and I did a week before that with Henry (Liddon) preparing the navigation notes, and then, it wasn’t recce but trying different cars over the early section of the route. Also the Mini would have won whether it was handicapped or not as it turned out.

RCN: Is that so? The Mini would have won on scratch? PE: On scratch, it would have.

RCN: That’s very interesting Paul. What weather conditions did you find when you reached the Stockholm start? PE: Two days before the start it had been minus 21 degrees or something and deep snow and when we arrived it had gone quite warm to about minus 2. Quite reasonable weather for a Swedish winter.

RCN: Yes, now, from the actual start did you drive, Timo, from the start? TM: Yes, I started, but I didn’t drive for long before Paul took over. PE: You drove to the first control and then I drove to Trelleborg.

RCN: How far was the first control roughly? TM: About 350km. PE: Something like that. Without the regulations to check and then they altered it … it was a little further to Trelleborg because of the cancellation of the ferry route.

RCN: And then, after that, you did quite a long stretch of driving didn’t you Paul? PE: Well, not until Frankfurt, but we sort of shared the driving. TM: After that we travelled down to Trelleborg and we both slept in the boat and after a meal I slept in the car and he slept upstairs and then after that we reached the control of East Germany and I started driving.

RCN: You drove East Germany? TM: Yes, it is very short – 250 km. Afterwards Paul started driving. PE: I Did most of the night in Poland, then we split up in the day and the third night from Frankfurt you had just over 11 hours from Frankfurt to Gerardmer.

RCN: And then Timo took over at Gerardmer, did he? TM: Yes, and then all the way from Gerardmer through Chambery and all the way to Monte Carlo.

RCN: And then when you reached Chambery, what were the weather conditions then – they were very bad for late starters I know, but for you when you reached Chambery…? TM: Not bad, not really bad when we got to Chambery, but just after we started the first test it was really bad.

RCN: From Chambery, of course, you started the five timed stages running into Monte. PE: We got to Chambery half an hour early and there was also half an hour compulsory stop and during that hour the blizzard really developed, and it was when we left … TM: Yes, and I was driving from St. Claude to Chambery nearly as fast as on the special stages.

RCN: There was a lot of snow all the way – the roads were covered in snow. TM: That is why I go fast. I think that when starting this special test after normal road driving you go 2-3 kilos slower but if you practise just a little bit at higher speeds you can start the special test confidently.

RCN: Although the conditions were a bit worse for the local starters, running from Chambery into Monte Carlo, the fact remains that out of the entire field of 273 only 35 got through to Monte Carlo at all and of those 35 competitors only one was unpenalised – only one lost no mark whatsoever on the road and that one was you. Now, have you any idea how you achieved this? TM: No, but this is something that you can experience in England – we had good tyres and we knew this road quite well, not once went wrong, having a good navigator and not tired at all, and no trouble with other cars blocking the road or something like that.

RCN: And you were also fastest in three out of the five tests over that section into Monte Carlo from Chambery? TM: Yes.

RCN: And how much of this is owed to the car do you think? TM: Oh, the Mini’s fantastic, good in the snow. We sometimes had one meter high snow over the middle of the road.

RCN: Sometimes the snow was one meter thick – that’s 39 inches thick. Well, how on earth can a little car like the Mini get through snow as thick as that – that seems unbelievable. It’s what – more than the hight of the bonnet? PE: Yes, it was coming right over the window and over the roof and you just had to almost stop once you were through. It was fairly light stuff where it had been falling; it hadn’t really packed too hard and it was possible to go through.

RCN: Are you saying in fact that you were first over the route? PE: After the second section we were the first car on the route all the way to the finish.

RCN: So you were a pathfinder fighting your way through this thick snow from the second stage onwards. PE: After the third special stage we started passing other cars. TM: Yes, after we got near to Bourget – about 30 kilos – we passed the last cars. PE: Yes, then after 30 or 40 kilos in this section we were first car on the road.

RCN: Now, in this, you just sort of force the car through thick drifts of snow and you were using spiked tyres, chisles? TM: Chisles, yes.

RCN: And also, wasn’t visibility a tremendous problem in these conditions? PE: Couldn’t see … hardly a thing. TM: Sometimes we stopped after driving many Kilos. We were the first there of course. With the terrible wind we could see nothing. PE: There was snow falling and the wind was blowing the snow in powder form like fog, as well.

RCN: So you couldn’t use full lighting then? Your light was on the throwback off the snow, into your face again, but you drove just on fog and spotlights, did you? TM: Diplights and foglights.

RCN: And what sort of speed were you able to keep up in these conditions? TM: 60 kilometres – higher in some sections, but sometimes we had some places where it was not snowing so much and we could …

RCN: So you could make up some time sometimes? TM: Yes.

RCN: But sometimes, surely, your speed must have come down below 60? TM: Oh yes – down to 1 kilo sometimes.

RCN: Really. You had a triplex heated windscreen with an electric element built into the screen to heat it; do you think this helped at all? TM: Yes, I’m sure it helped – but anyway we were still getting some ice on the windscreen.

RCN: You still had ice on the screen, even though it was heated? PE: It was snowing so hard it was building up on the corners a little bit, where the wipers, you know, were pushing it. TM: I think it was probably the wiper – an old one and it stuck to the one spot and just got bigger and bigger.

RCN: Paul – how did you feel bashing through all this? Were you worried at all? PE: No, I was too busy and he always kept it going where it is meant to be.

RCN: Too busy reading pace notes and keeping an eye on the route? PE: Yes.

RCN: Even route finding must have been a major problem, surely, on these conditions. Surely, signposts couldn’t be read? PE: Sometimes the snow was higher than the signpost. On one left hand bend, where it had been cleared away, we couldn’t see the signpost.

RCN: Apart from that you could hardly tell which was road and which was ditch at the side of the road. PE: Sometimes it was blowing from both sides and you had it coming down each side with a narrow V in the centre of the road.

RCN: Well, you arrived at Monte Carlo so, unpenalised competitors of the entire field and of the 35 who actually reached Monte Carlo. Did you both feel very tired on arrival? TM: Not at all. PE: Not on arrival, but afterwards.

RCN: Yes! Now you were in a difficult situation because you had a lead over the next man, a reasonably comfortable lead, but not all that comfortable, and ahead of you still lay the mountain circuit which was something in the region of 400 miles to be covered at night with six timed stages in it and you knew that you would probably have to do these in ice and snow and all sorts of conditions. Were you worried about the condition of the car? TM: Of course we were worried that something might drop off the car, but it felt 100% and we didn’t think that something was wrong with the car.

RCN: Were there no signs of any trouble? TM: No, not at all – it was feeling better and better all the time.

RCN: Now the other problem about the mountain circuit was that, your lead, how much did you have in hand – about ten minutes. TM: Yes, we had 10 minutes 23 seconds. PE: Ten minutes, 23 seconds – that was 2 minutes road mark – 8 minutes 23 seconds special stage. TM: And we were a little bit handicapped. The second car was the Citroen, 2000 cc, Group 3, which must have also had some handicap.

RCN: So I think that everybody was expecting that you would drive comparatively slowly on the mountain circuit in order to maintain this lead and to be absolutely sure that you would keep the car on the road, and yet despite this, in the six final tests, you were fastest in five of them. How on earth did you manage this? TM: Yes – I don’t say – very many people ask me, am I driving flat out or am I taking it easy. Yes, of course, I spare the car and I drive fast, but no so fast that I go off the road. Just 90% or something like that. I know that when I start driving really slowly that I think I have lost interest in driving. After that you can miss and go off.

RCN: You’re saying, Timo, that if you had driven really slowly, or really slowly by your standards that is, your driving could have lacked concentration and in your opinion you would have been more likely to go off the road. TM: Yes, I become very tired driving like that and I had maximum revs of 7000, using only 6500, 6700 and changing gear very slowly, very smoothly all the time – nothing hard on the car, just smooth driving.

RCN: Could we briefly touch on your technique in … oh, first of all, the conditions in which you did actually encounter on the mountain circuit. PE: It wasn’t actually snowing, only slightly at times. But there was quite a lot on the road. TM: Yes, but not deep snow. Only 60 – 70%. PE: Yes, 70% I think snow lies. TM: Yes, but not deep snow.

RCN: In many places the snow was packed and frozen on top, so were conditions very slippery? TM: Yes, very slippery indeed, but handling is much better than in the deep snow. In the deep snow when you are driving fast, you don’t know, sometimes there’s a big rock there and the steering is heavy all the time.

RCN: Driving in these conditions, were you using the technique that is most popular in Scandinavia and Finland – that of two pedals? TM: Yes, that is right foot acceleration and left foot braking. RCN: With a front wheel drive car does it allow you to corner faster? TM: Oh, I don’t know – you go through at the same speed, I think, but it is safer.

RCN: I don’t quite understand when you say the two pedal technique is safer. TM: Yes. Your car will never understeer when your right foot is accelerating and your left foot is braking; you get oversteer than. And you can keep the front of the car in the middle of the road and when accelerating, you never go off.

RCN: Are you saying that with this technique you are controlling the front of the car with the accelerator and the tail with the brake/ TM: Yes. I steer the car with the brakes, this keeps the handling 100% all the time. I don’t mean that you can go fast into every corner with a front wheel drive car; there’s too much understeer. But when you go too fast into a corner you go straight on and you can do nothing. But this never happens when your left foot is on the brake.

RCN: Well summing everything up, Timo, apart from your driving technique, what do you think you owe your success in the Monte Carlo Rally? TM: One thing is organisation, and a good car, and after this, service; you must have a good navigator, good pace notes and this is what we did together when we practiced there, and always a good driver must take over when I am not feeling well and I’m tired. And very good luck too.