Lights in Controversy: Monte Carlo Rally 1966 and Mini Cooper’s DQs

The Monte Carlo Rally has always been a competition that tests not only the speed, but also the endurance and skill of every driver. The edition of 1966 is particularly memorable for its controversy and the impact it had on the rally world.
That year’s edition attracted a large number of high-profile teams and drivers. Among them, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) presented its Mini Cooper S, small but powerful cars, driven by the likes of Timo Mäkinen, Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk. These Minis were favoured for victory due to their agility and ability to handle the difficult winter conditions.
During the race, the Minis proved their superiority. Mäkinen, in particular, drove with exceptional mastery through icy roads and snowy sections with great skill. At the end of the race, the Mini Coopers occupied the first three places. It looked like a one-sided victory.
However, soon after the finish, controversy arose. The rally organisers decided to disqualify the first three Minis due to an alleged irregularity in their front lights. According to regulations, the cars had to be equipped with 55-watt bulbs, but the Minis had installed 100-watt bulbs. Although other cars in the competition had similar lights, only the BMC cars were disqualified.
This decision was greeted with disbelief and indignation by both the teams involved and rally fans. This disqualification caused a stir in the motorsport world and raised questions about the fairness and consistency of the rules in rallying.
Victory was then awarded to Pauli Toivonen in a Citroën, but the controversy stayed in the fans’ minds for a long time. This episode not only showed the competitive and often unpredictable nature of rally, but also highlighted the importance of clear and consistent rules in motorsport. The 1966 race stayed in history as an example of how rally, from its beginnings, was and is a mix of driving skill, engineering, strategy and, at times, arbitrary decisions.

RACEFEVER: you can’t rule speed.

Tommaso Fatichi


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