Seeing Anita Taylor’s Cooper S at Shelsley Walsh brough back some vivid Mini racing memories, not le

Seeing Anita Taylor’s Cooper S at Shelsley Walsh brough back some vivid Mini racing memories, not le

Just returned from a splendid weekend at Shelsley Walsh celebrating 60 years of the Jaguar E-type and Mini Cooper. I competed at Shelsley in my early career but had forgotten how narrow and steep the hill is. The thought of driving a 500bhp-plus single-seater up the hill at well over 100mph is frankly quite terrifying. I was amazed at the number of spectators and it’s good to see how popular the sport still is. The display of E-types was amazing with every model, year and variant on show.

During the weekend I spent a lot of time with Paddy Hopkirk and Warwick Banks. All three of us had a lot of fun driving the works Mini Coopers together in the British and European Championships in the mid-Sixties. Paddy was unable to drive in every race because of his rally commitments so it was left to me to gather enough points to win the 1964 championship. We would always be glued together, slipstreaming each other, but he would let me stay ahead to build up the points. Jim Clark in the Lotus Cortina was my main opposition for the championship, which he ultimately won. In the British Grand Prix round at Silverstone, Downton Engineering had entered a Mini Cooper the same as our works cars for Dutchman Rob Slotemaker to help us defeat the Ford Anglias of brothers Mike and John Young, who were becoming very competitive. The Downton car was faster than our works cars but it was agreed that he would let me through if he was leading towards the end of the race. His main aim was to keep the Ford Anglias behind so that Paddy and I could gain maximum points.

We had been lapped by the Ford Galaxies and hadn’t realised that our race would be one lap shorter. With what we thought was one lap to go, Rob was leading our group with me in his slip stream trying to stay ahead of the Anglias but the chequered flag was being waved as we rounded Woodcote corner and Rob suddenly braked to let me through. The Mini was very much on the edge going flat-out around Woodcote so there were Minis and Anglias flying in all directions when he braked in front of us. I managed to keep it on the road and finish second in class behind Paddy. John Cooper was not best pleased.

The Cooper S that Anita Taylor drove in 1964 was also at Shelsley. Anita was one hell of a driver and joined me in the Broadspeed Ford Team in 1966 in the British Saloon Car Championship. The Mini Coopers had 1071cc engines in those days but the 1275cc was introduced mid-way through the year and we had a small advantage over the private teams for a few races. I wish I had kept one. A 1275 now, with a bit of history and reasonable condition could be worth £35,000-£45,000. Paddy was at Shelsley driving the new Mini Cooper S ‘Paddy Hopkirk Edition’, just announced to celebrate his 1964 Monte win. A snip at £27,000 with just 100 examples available.

Right: the ex-Anita Taylor Aurora Gears car was one of several important Minis that drew crowds at Shelsley; Below: John is reunited with fellow Cooper comrades Warwick Banks (centre) and Paddy Hopkirk (right).

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