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Mini celebration for Hopkirk

Northern Ireland’s Paddy Hopkirk led a convoy of more than 200 minis through the streets of Belfast on Saturday as part of celebrations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his win at the Monte Carlo Rally.

Belfast-born Hopkirk, 80, was guest of honour at the charity event, which began with a cavalcade of minis from the Stormont Parliament Buildings to the Titanic slipway.

Hopkirk led the way in a replica of the red Mini Cooper S he and co-driver Henry Liddon drove to victory in 1964 – a giant-killing performance that made him a household name in the UK.

Hopkirk admitted the event has been an emotional experience. “I’ve never broken down before but I broke down in tears as I was driving through Belfast. It was very moving,” he said.

WRC stars Ari Vatanen, Kris Meeke and Jimmy McRae joined more than 1,500 fans at the all-day event that also featured an autotest and a gala ball hosted in the driver's honour.

Dr. Beatty Crawford, who chaired the organizing committee, told wrc.com: “You could see the cavalcade was an emotional time for Paddy.

"Doing that here, where he was born, and to see the recognition from the people in the city was very special. I think he really enjoyed himself.”