A quick mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

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Rauno Aaltonen Classic Mini Christmas 15 A speedy mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

What could bring some pre-Christmas joy to a world-famous rallying legend at the end of a year dominated by lockdown? MINI had an idea: Rauno Aaltonen, winner of the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally in a classic Mini, was surprised in his Finnish homeland with a festive greeting on four wheels. He is known around the world as the “rally professor”, but too much theory eventually spoils even the happiest of experts. Rauno Aaltonen had to spend the past eight months at home in his Finnish homeland due to the applicable lockdown regulations. No excursions on the rally slope, no trial of strength in historical races, no practical courses with racing enthusiastic students. Aaltonen is now 82 years old, but the tingling sensation in his gas foot has never subsided, and his impressive level of fitness still allows him to grapple with the steering wheel. He says that he has never before had to do without driving for as long as in the pandemic year 2020. And, no, he was really not made for retirement.

Rauno Aaltonen and the old Mini!

Rauno Aaltonen Classic Mini Christmas 20 A speedy mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

How good that there are loyal friends who know exactly what can help against boredom. Even before the first little doors in the Advent calendar were opened, MINI came up with the idea of ​​a special kind of pre-Christmas presents. And because it was clear what the experienced rally driver and long-time companion of the British brand was missing most, it wasn't just a package laced up, but also a “sledge” set in motion. A closed vehicle transport trailer filled with a classic Mini and pulled by a MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 set out on the long journey north.

Rauno Aaltonen was the Rallye Monte Carlo winner

Rauno Aaltonen Classic Mini Christmas 100 A speedy mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

“Rauno has given us so many moving moments in almost 60 years. Now is the perfect moment to give something back, ”says Bernd Körber, Head of the MINI Brand. Indeed, the relationship between Aaltonen and the British brand goes back to 1961. At that time, the Finn had just become national rally champion in his home country and was determined to take on the challenge of the “Monte”, which was already shrouded by many myths, for the first time at the beginning of the following year. With the classic Mini, he found the right vehicle for it. The joint premiere ended with a spectacular crash, but in January 1963 Aaltonen finished the Monte Carlo Rally in the Mini Cooper as class winner and third in the overall standings.

From year to year the classic Mini and the works team were better and better prepared for the unique requirements of the Monte Carlo Rally - not least because of the precise instructions that Rauno Aaltonen gave the team after every run and during every test drive in terms of vehicle set-up, additional equipment, and road conditions or tire choice delivered. "Everything that was allowed and possible within the regulations was also taken into account," he reported later.

Rauno Aaltonen Classic Mini Christmas 7 A speedy mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

Nevertheless, the great triumph was initially reserved for others. In 1964, Northern Irishman "Paddy" Hopkirk took the first overall victory in the Mini Cooper S, and Aaltonen's compatriot Timo Mäkinen achieved the second "trick" the following year. In 1966, the trio, now known as “the three musketeers”, even took first to third place, but was disqualified after a controversial decision by the race management, which classified the Mini's lighting system as illegal. In 1967 the time had finally come: Rauno Aaltonen also achieved the long-deserved overall victory at the Monte Carlo Rally.

With that he had finally made the classic Mini a rally legend and on top of that put his stamp on the sport as a whole. Aaltonen is considered to be the inventor of left-hand braking, which enabled him to keep his right foot on the accelerator pedal even when cornering, while the left foot alternated between the clutch and brake pedal. He called it “playing the piano with your feet”. In addition, the Finn introduced detailed “notes” on the route and was the first to send “ice spies” onto the piste to record the condition of the road. His meticulous preparation and the ability to vividly explain his rapid driving maneuvers soon also benefited Aaltonen beyond the rally slopes. As the first chief instructor of the BMW driver training program, founded in 1976 and now known as the BMW and MINI Driving Experience, the "rally professor" passed on his knowledge of fast and safe driving to countless course participants.

Rauno Aaltonen Classic Mini Christmas 2 A speedy mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

In the “golden” 1960s for the classic Mini, the start of the Monte Carlo Rally consisted of a rally that began in several European cities. The journey to the first special stage often turned into an adventurous journey. With this knowledge, it was now a matter of honor for the MINI team to undertake a true marathon for the sake of Rauno Aaltonen. From Munich, the trailer in tow of the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 initially headed straight for the Baltic Sea, and after a 30-hour ferry ride, the team made its way for another 14 hours on the roads of Finland, some of which were already snowy in winter.

The destination of the pre-Christmas mission was Rovaniemi. The capital of the Lapland region is known worldwide as the "official home of Santa Claus". However, the MINI team did not have to submit a wish list, but rather to bring a present. The handover of a present with warm regards from Munich was of course contactless, and the transporter opened as if moved by magic. The trailer decorated with a picture of a classic Mini actually left no doubt about its content, but Rauno Aaltonen was visibly touched when the red classic with the white roof rolled out.

Rauno Aaltonen Classic Mini Christmas 12 A speedy mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

However, he did not lose much time. A little later the snow was flying in a high arc and the old master roared away drifting on an extensive tour through deeply snow-covered Finnish forests. No question about it: Rauno Aaltonen couldn't have given a better present. The forced break was finally over and he was finally able to “play the piano with his feet” again. On the way towards the Arctic Circle, he must have started his own version of a well-known Christmas carol. Instead of “Driving Home for Christmas” it was “Driving at Home before Christmas” for him.

Rauno Aaltonen Classic Mini Christmas 5 A speedy mess: Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

Of course that had not happened yet!

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Rauno Aaltonen and the Mini!

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