He is known the world over as the Rally Professor, but too much theory puts a damper on the mood of even the most ardent specialist at some point. Owing to the lockdown regulations, Rauno Aaltonen had to stay at home in Finland over the past eight months. No outings onto the rally track, no tests of strength in historic competitions, no practice training sessions instructing young learners with a passion for motor sport. Meanwhile, Aaltonen is 82 years old but the itch to floor the pedal has never really gone away. And his astonishing level of fitness still allows him to be a potent force behind the steering wheel. Never before had he been forced to do without driving a car for such a long time as during the pandemic year of 2020. And, no, he really isn’t cut out for retirement.
What a good thing that there are some true friends out there who know exactly how to get on top of boredom. Even before the first door was opened in the advent calendar, the people at MINI had a brilliant idea for an advent gift of a very special kind. And because it was crystal clear what the seasoned rally driver and long-term companion of the British brand is currently lacking most, there was no point in sending a beribboned package. A motorised “sleigh” on wheels was dispatched northwards. An enclosed vehicle trailer loaded with a classic Mini and towed by a MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 (combined fuel consumption: 6.5 – 6.2 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 149 – 142 g/km) embarked on the long journey to northern climes.
“Over a period of nearly 60 years, Rauno has given us so many magic moments. Now is the perfect moment to give something back,” said Bernd Körber, Head of MINI. In fact, the relationship between Aaltonen and the British brand goes all the way back to 1961. At the time, the driver from Finland had just ascended to Rally Champion in his homeland and he was dead set on taking up the challenge of competing for the first time in what was even then the mythologised “Monte” at the beginning of the following year. He found absolutely the right vehicle in the classic Mini. The joint premiere came to an end with a spectacular crash, but already in January 1963, Aaltonen driving the Mini Cooper completed the Monte Carlo Rally as class winner and third in the overall placings driving.
From one year to the next, the classic Mini and the works team got better and better at making preparations to match the unique conditions of the Monte Carlo Rally – not least owing to the precise instructions given to the team by Rauno Aaltonen after each race and for each test drive. He provided meticulous details relating to vehicle tuning, additional equipment, conditions of the road and tyre selection. “Everything allowed by the regulations that was feasible was implemented,” he was to report later on.
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