Paddy Hopkirk dead at 89: Tributes paid to motorsport legend best known for winning 1964 Monte Carlo Rally | The Sun

MOTORSPORT legend Paddy Hopkirk has died at the age of 89.

The British racing icon, most famous for his 1964 Monte Carlo Rally win, has "passed away peacefully" on Thursday, a family statement revealed.

The husband, father, grandfather and motorsport legend died at at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, leaving his loved ones heartbroken.

Hopkirk is survived by wife Jenny and three children – Katie, Patrick and William – as well as his six grandchildren.

A statement released by Hopkirk's family on Friday read: "First and foremost, Paddy was a loving husband, father and grandfather.

"His passing will leave a huge hole in the lives of those closest to him.

"But Paddy also leaves an incredible legacy of motorsport and business success.

"His hard work in support of the British motorsport and wider car industry continued until his final days.

"His family, friends and fans will never forget his sharp wit and wicked smile.

"He brought fun and joy to anyone in his company and inspired many."

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Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in April 1933, Hopkirk would go on to become one of Britain's top rally drivers of all time.

He most-famously stormed to the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally win in his Mini Cooper S.

But his racing journey begun aged NINE when a local clergyman left him his invalid carriage – predecessors to the modern mobility scooter – in his will.

He later bought a motorcycle, before his dad insisted he attached a sidecar, believing it was a safer option.

Despite studying engineering at Trinity College Dublin, Hopkirk would drop out to focus on racing.

During his days at Trinity, he had bought an Austin 7 "Chummy" Tourer – which he would later race on the rally circuit.

Hopkirk started working for Dublin's Volkswagen assembler's retail operation in Ballsbridge – and used a number of Beetles to kickstart his racing career.

He bagged his first win in 1953, but would have to wait over a decade for his career-defining win on the French Rivieira – winning a total of 13 international rallies before retiring.

And in 2010, after an illustrious career, Hopkirk was inducted into the Rally Hall of Fame.

He was later awarded an MBE in the 2016 New Year's Honours List.

Tributes have poured in for Hopkirk following his family's tragic annoucement.

The FIA – the governing body for world motorsport – tweeted: "We pay tribute to former Rally driver Paddy Hopkirk, who passed away at the age of 89.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

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Mini Sport wrote: "Passing of a Champion – Paddy Hopkirk MBE… It is with heavy hearts that we are sharing the news with you that our very dear friend Paddy Hopkirk MBE passed away on Thursday evening."

They were joined by hoards of fans and motorsport enthusiasts left shattered by the horrible news – with one offering a silver lining, tweeting: "His legacy will live on."

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