Farewell to two Mini Legends

First published June 2017.


As a long-time Mini enthusiast I was saddened to learn of the recent death of two of the early and very successful Mini competitors, both at the age of 79.

SIR JOHN WHITMORE was a fascinating character, coming from a privileged background but spending a number of years living a very simple life in the States in an alternative community.  In later years he became a notable business coaching expert and author, especially with the highly regarded GROW model (for a while he had a business column in the Daily Telegraph).  His motor sport successes started in 1961 when he won the British Saloon Car Championship (BTCC of today) in a second-hand 850 Mini bought for £400.  A Don Moore engine gave the car enough performance to win the Championship – and I think those early days of saloon car racing were the best years when drivers drove with skill and minimal bodywork contact compared with the ‘hooligan’ approach today.  He was clearly a very talented driver and he won the 1965 European Touring Car Championship in an Alan Mann Lotus-Cortina.  He raced at Le Mans with Jim Clark in a Lotus Elite and drove many varied cars, including the works Ford GT40s in major sports car races with famous drivers of the era.  He even did some rallying, doing the RAC and Monte.  He seemed to have a knack of getting to know and become friends with many notable people of the day – as well as Jim Clark his friends included Steve McQueen, Jo Bonnier, Christabel Carlisle and Jackie Stewart.  It was a dangerous era and Sir John retired from racing in 1966, having sadly seen too many of his contemporaries lose their lives in racing accidents.

In the rallying world, TIMO MAKINEN was one of the original ‘flying Finns’ (along with Rauno Aaltonen).  His early successes were in Healey 3000s and Minis, and there are many photos in the archives of him in spectacular action.  Later in his career he drove works Escorts among other makes.  He won the RAC Rally three times, the 1000 Lakes three times and the Finnish Rally Championship three times.  He earned one of the Mini’s great wins in 1965 on the Monte.  Away from rallying he won at ice racing and saloon car racing in Finland.  He was also very successful in powerboat racing, winning the Round Britain Powerboat Race in 1969.  His most frequent co-driver was Paul Easter, who is still active in VSCC events today.  Of course our Area’s Don Barrow also competed with Timo (in 1964, works Healey, Spa-Sofia-Liege and RAC rallies as well as various recces) and has written of his experiences on his website – we must get Don to give us a talk on rallying with Timo one day.  On some of Timo’s last rallies his co-driver was Jean Todt.  My own connection is that I did a number of road rallies in two ex-works Minis (JMO969D and ORX77F) both of which had been driven by Timo.

So we have sadly lost two of the key drivers who helped create the legend of the Mini as a race and rally car.

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