MORE THAN 800 MINI MANIACS FROM MORE THAN 130 MINI CLUBS AROUND EUROPE GATHERED IN ZARASAI, LITHUANIA, FOR A WEEKEND IN MAY FOR THE 2015 INTERNATIONAL MINI MEETING. BMW ASKED OUR PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER YURI DOJC TO JOIN THEM FOR THE FUN AND FRIVOLITIES.

“There were many activities, all well planned and managed, but this event convinced me again: only the Mini has a soul and heart.”

-Rauno Aaltonen, the Finnish former professional rally car driver known around the world as “The Rally Professor”, one of the first inductees into the Rally Hall of Fame. Rauno and Mini go way back – he won many races behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper. A special edition BMW Mini Cooper in 2012 was christened the Rauno Aaltonen Edition.

“Zarasai has a scenic lake. The numerous Mini people had put up their IMM Camp on the lake shore, nicely grouped by their Mini Clubs and nationality as well. I made a walking tour to admire the classic Minis. What a variation there was. Every owner had clearly made their mark on their cars. Basically the same car body has been produced many, many times. Every one of these Minis had their own little personality, reflecting their owner’s dreams and wishes.” -Rauno

Re: Luxe: Tell us about your long-standing relationship with the Mini?

Rauno: “It was love at first sight. I walked in my hometown Turku, in Finland, in 1959. I was already deeply active in motor sport. Suddenly a little green car like a box parked on the street caught my interest. This is it, a dream of a rally car! Small but with relatively wide track and a wheel base as long as possible, as the wheels were right in the corners. This will be the winner!

It was the 850 Mini, underpowered and slow. After a couple of years and a lot of improvements that little car came up again in my mind. 1961 had been a successful year for me behind the wheel of a Mercedes. Nobody understood why I changed from the famous Mercedes team to the BMC (British Motor Corporation) team (which made the Mini cars).

In 1962, BMC entered two Mini Coopers, now a 997 cc powertrain, in the Rally Monte Carlo. The drivers were Pat Moss and myself. Geoff Mabbs drove with me and gave me a lot of valuable advice. We placed 2nd overall. Just a couple of kilometres before the finish of the very last special stage I struck the mountainside, the Mini rolled and caught fire. Not a good start in a new team.

However things changed. Slowly I started to win more and more rallies in Europe and came the most successful rally driver of the 1960s. It was the incredible spirit in the BMC team that made that period unforgettable. After BMC closed down in the international rallies, I continued to drive for many famous and good manufacturers but the spirit was never like at the Mini team.

After a couple of decades with BMW, as the founder and mostly as chief instructor of the famous BMW Driver Training as it was called then, history repeated itself. BMW had bought Rover, and the Mini with it. A new little car was developed, this time called the MINI (with capital letters). In 1999 they gave me the honour to test drive it. I found the old love again.”