Has the little Austrian boy ever heard of Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen? He certainly finds their company car fascinating. Okay, the little red car is not an original, just a replica. But the sound and the visual appearance are enough to generate a lot of childlike enthusiasm.

The reason we are driving past his parents' house is actually to take photos on the bends. Mini has organised a birthday trip to the Ice Race in Zell am See. With the aforementioned Austin Mini Cooper S Works Rallye based on a 1963 model and one of the last old models from the year 2000. 60 years ago, in January 1964, a Mini won the famous Monte Carlo Rally for the first time.

Gallery: Austin Mini Cooper S Works Rallye test

With Irishman Patrick "Paddy" Hopkirk at the wheel, the Mini Cooper S won the overall classification of the Monte Carlo Rally. Luck? Coincidence? A twist of fate? Probably not, as this was followed by two more victories in the "Monte" and numerous other successes up to the end of the 1960s. Looking back, the reasons for this were: modern technology, top drivers, new logistics standards.

At the end of the 1950s, the rally greats usually travelled through English forests, over French mountain passes or from Liège to Sofia and back again in stately and lavishly motorised vehicles. Austin-Healey, Mercedes Heckflosse (W110 Tail Fin) or Ford Falcon were the measure of all things at the rallies and dominated the scene.

During this time, Greek-born Alec Issigonis built by far the most modern car of its time on behalf of the British Motor Corporation (BMC): with its transverse front-mounted engine and front-wheel drive, the classic Mini met the standard for small cars that still applies today when it made its debut in 1959.

Austin Mini Cooper S Works Rallye im Test

A second ingenious car guy was needed for an impressive sports career: John Cooper. He had achieved fame as a racing driver and prosperity as a designer - and he was immediately convinced of the Mini's sporting potential. Cooper, who had already placed the engine behind the driver rather than in front of him, as was customary at the time in his formula cars, put it in a nutshell to his friend Issigonis, who saw the classic Mini more as a car for everyone:

"You didn't make a family car. It's a bloody racing car. Give it more power, better brakes and build the thing."

In 1960, the first Mini Cooper was created - with a proud 55 bhp instead of the 34 bhp of the original Mini from 1959. 1961 saw the Mini Cooper, which was just three metres tall, turn the world of fast drivers upside down. It democratised speed. From then on, even the less well-heeled could speed across the country at least as quickly as the owners of pure sports cars and high-horsepower saloons. And on the rally tracks and racetracks, the little racers with their almost filigree-looking ten-inch wheels took the trophies.

Gallery: 60 years of Mini's first victory at the Monte-Carlo Rally

The Mini Cooper was tailor-made for the rally tracks of the time. Hardly any body overhangs ensured neutral handling behaviour that was unheard of at the time. The compact body still left a little space on narrow mountain roads to the next little wall, which the Healeys and Falcons would have hit long ago. And thanks to the rather modest 650 kilos that a Rallye Mini weighed at the time, the equally manageable 55 bhp resulted in a perfectly acceptable power-to-weight ratio.

In 1962, BMC sports director Stuart Turner signed two talents from the Nordic forests alongside the Irishman Paddy Hopkirk: Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen. The Finnish ice-hurlers and virtuoso left-hand brakemen shared a penchant for hearty acceleration - and yet could not be more different. Mäkinen was not a fan of many words and went down in history as the Flying Finn. Aaltonen was fluent in five languages and pursued motorsport with scientific meticulousness, which later earned him the title of rally professor.

60 Jahre erster Sieg von Mini bei der Rallye Monte-Carlo

It was the legendary "Night of the Long Knives", the penultimate stage of the Monte Carlo Rally, that put the Mini Cooper S with the starting number 37 and the now famous number plate 33 EJB on the road to victory in the winter of 1964. The stage at the Col de Turini in the French Maritime Alps features 34 hairpin bends over 24 kilometres - a real challenge in the snow and ice at 1600 metres above sea level.

Hopkirk reached the finish line just 17 seconds behind his closest rival Bo Ljungfeldt in a much more powerful Ford Falcon with a V8 engine. Due to the handicap formula in force at the time to equalise the differences in weight and power, the classic Mini was ahead in the overall standings. And it also defended its lead in the final circuit race through the streets of Monte Carlo.

60 Jahre erster Sieg von Mini bei der Rallye Monte-Carlo

The Mini Cooper continued to dominate the Monte Carlo Rally in subsequent years. Timo Mäkinen won by a large margin just one year later. The increase in engine capacity to 1,275 cubic centimetres also helped. Mäkinen was the only participant to remain penalty-free over the entire distance. The organisers had scheduled a second night drive through the Maritime Alps despite the huge amounts of snow and ice. Mäkinen and his Mini Cooper S were unimpressed and won five of the six special stages on the final leg.

The supposed ultimate triumph came in 1966, when the Mini drivers took first to third place. The race organisers disqualified all three vehicles for allegedly non-compliant lighting technology - a technology including the characteristic additional headlights in front of the radiator grille, which is still one of the most popular accessories in the brand's range today.

Even French rally enthusiasts were embarrassed by the disqualification. In 1967, Aaltonen took the overall victory - and yet the end of an era began to loom. The following year, Vic Elford won in a Porsche 911 - Aaltonen saved the Mini's honour with third place.

Gallery: Mini at the F.A.T. Ice Race 2024 in Zell am See

1970 was the end for good. The Leyland Group got into financial difficulties - a great chapter in motorsport history was closed. In July 1971, the last Mini Cooper S for the time being rolled off the production line.

And of course, since the takeover by the BMW Group, motorsport and the name John Cooper have continued to play an important role. In 2011 and 2012, Mini continued its motorsport history with the John Cooper Works WRC in selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

From 2012, the Mini ALL4 Racing, specially designed for cross-country rallies, took on a special challenge: the Dakar Rally, the ultimate endurance test for drivers, vehicles and teams. Performance and reliability led to four consecutive Dakar successes from 2012 to 2015, followed by numbers five and six in 2020 and 2021. These cars could be seen in action this year in Zell am See (see above).

Austin Mini Cooper S Works Rallye im Test
Austin Mini Cooper S Works Rallye im Test
Austin Mini Cooper S Works Rallye im Test

But let's move on to "our" Mini Cooper S from 1963 in the style of the Monte-winning car from 1965. The rear seat located under the mighty roll cage shows the replica; in the original, it would have been thrown out long ago. Otherwise, however, a lot of effort has been made: The cockpit is littered with switches and buttons (fortunately explained in writing), from the light battery at the front to the windscreen wipers that can be operated by the front passenger. Of course, you drive on the right ...

But first of all, 1.88 metres of driver have to be folded into it. What was already a gymnastic exercise in the Classic Mini from 2000 turns into a mixture of yoga, origami and Kamasutra in the 63. Somehow thread your left leg under the steering wheel, which is far too flat, and your body and right leg behind it. And then see how to hit the pedals in the narrow footwell between the heater and the wheel arch.

Remember: Paddy, Timo and Rauno must have been smaller and weren't wearing winter boots. Did they also have to contend with the awkward four-speed manual gearbox and its long distances? One thing is certain: the rally Mini is really in a good mood between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm. Respectively acoustically between "neighbour drills" and "jackhammer". The fiery red playmobile pulls ahead with an infernal sound, and we don't really believe the "approximately" 90 bhp from 1,085 cubic metres.   

Austin Mini Cooper S Works Rallye im Test

It is by no means lame, but acoustically faster than it actually is. After all, the "go-kart feeling" that has become so overused by Mini is really present here. The car whizzes round corners vehemently, corners become a joy. Don't forget: Keep the engine revving. ROAR ROAR ROAR!

Suspension comfort? At best, the grandma armchairs in kindergarten format. Or to paraphrase an English-sounding cough drop: If it's too hard, you're too weak. If you drive this car over a €2 coin, you'll know which country it comes from. 

And so we saw for hours towards the mountains, the steering wheel on our legs rather than in front of them. Torture Red in Tartan Red, so to speak. By the time we arrive at our destination hotel, we should hate the car. But we don't. Because the joy of driving can also be defined in British terms - as a little red hard liquor on wheels.

Photos: Hardy Mutschler/BMW Classic