Porsche 908-3, 1970 Targa Florio, Brian Redman, Jo Siffert

Targa Florio – History & Race Profile

History of the Targa Florio – Race Profile Page Two

After WWI, cars were scarce and little had been spent on road repair. So Florio transformed the Targa into a Formula Libra; run what you brung, as they say. He also shortened the total mileage from 651 miles to 268. The new course—called the Media Circuit—was 22.5 miles around. The race was held on November 23, 1919. Twenty-four cars came including Enzo Ferrari in a CMN. There were thousands of spectators from all over Europe. The hotels, bars and restaurants did a land-office business. Andre Boillot won the four-lap race in a Peugeot EXS.

Enzo Ferrari, CMN race car, 1919 Targa Florio
A young Enzo Ferrari at the wheel of a CMN.
Count Masetti, 1921 Targa Florio, Fiat race car
Count Masetti won the 1921 Targa Florio in a Fiat.
1922 Targa Florio, 115 HP Mercedes Grand Prix racing car
With his 115 HP Mercedes Grand Prix racing car from 1914, Count Giulio Masetti won the 1922 Targa Florio over a distance of 432 km. (Photo: Daimler Benz Archives)
Mercedes 28/95 PS, 1922 Targa Florio
Christian Werner with co-driver (start number 39) in a Mercedes 28/95 PS without supercharger at the 1922 Targa Florio. Werner took second place in the category for production cars with over 4.5-liter displacement. (Photo: Daimler Benz Archives)

Between the wars, Bugatti dominated for five years (1925-29), then Alfa Romeo for six in a row with Tazio Nuvolari (1931 and 1932) and Achille Varzi (1930 and 1934) winning two each. The 1936 event was run over two laps for 1.5-liter cars and was taken by Constantino Magistri in a Lancia Augusta. Maserati won the last four of the decade—1937 to ’40—with Luigi Villoresi triumphant at the last two.

1927 Targa Florio, Bugatti T35B
Czechoslovakian Elizabeth Junek with Vincenzo Floria. She was the first woman to compete in the Targa Florio in 1927. She was in third when the steering in her Bugatti Type 35B broke.
1930 Targa Florio, Alfa Romeo Tipo B P2, Varzi
Driving an Alfa Romeo P2 over the 108 km Media Circuit, Achille Varzi won the 1930 Targa Florio in just under seven hours averaging 78 mph.

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Show Comments (10)

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  1. Great retrospective by Mr. Evans. I knew somewhere in my noggin that the Targa Florio was raced way back when, but I had no idea that it started in 1906. Those old pictures are very interesting, especially the details in the background. Thanks to all.

  2. If my reading is correct, the first two “Targa Florio’s” were run before 1906. They were run, not in Sicily,
    but in northen Italy, starting and ending in Brescia which would eventually become the home of the Mille Miglia.
    They were races that were organized and competed in, by Vincenzo Florio himself. They did not circumnavigate Italy as the Mille Miglia later would, but were run as several laps around a closed course in the Brescia-Cremona region. Florio was a northen Italian, not a Sicilian. For various reasons he had to move the race to Sicily where he was welcomed. But the first two were called “Coppa Florio’s” after the very artistic cup he put up for the winner.
    I think that his race in 1906 might have been the first formal “Targa” however.
    Feel free to correct me on this.

  3. What goes around comes around. I noticed the wheels on the early racers are the same as we see on customized cars of today.

  4. Don’t understand the James Dean connection – wasn’t he a rank amateur whose talent fell far short of those who actually took on the Targa Florio, or any other serious motor race?

    1. I was pointing out those who were well-known race driver who died that year. Of course, he was an amateur. I knew him and say him race at Palm Springs. Obviously he was an amateur, but he WAS well known. – Art Evans

  5. Thank you, Mr. Evans, for this excellent retrospective on the Targa Florio. My wife and I spent a few weeks in Sicily last year and drove the 45 mile piccolo circuito delle Madonie, which was the circuit used during the last three decades of the Targa Florio, before the last race was run in 1977. The piccolo circuito is a 45-mile, 72 kilometer, 700-turn torture test of man and machine in the western Madonie mountains. A complete race consisted of eleven laps. The race started a couple of miles north of Cerda, where grandstands, pit walls, and a statue of Vincenzo Florio still stand. It proceeded counter-clockwise through Cerda and south to Caltavuturo, then turned north toward the Tyrrhenian Sea, passing through Collesano on the way to the seaside town of Campofelice and the long 3.7 mile Buonfornello straight along the coast, before turning south toward Cerda once again. The circuit is public road, used by locals, trucks and buses, and farmers herding livestock. Several sections of the road have eroded away, requiring one-lane etiquette. That said, the drive is spectacular, the scenery unimaginably beautiful. And even as someone who has done some racing, I have no comprehension of how difficult this race must have been to drive, especially considering the lap record is something under 34 minutes! It took us over six hours, with a stop at the small but excellent Museo Targa Florio in Collesano, and lunch afterward at Trattoria Carricaturi Di Barranco Filippo, where, after praising the “occhi di lupo” pasta dish, the chef came to our table and gave us the recipe!

  6. Thank you very much for the great piece and photo collection Mr. Evans. A real pleasure to read and relive the great moments of this fantastic event. By the sound of it, each year would probably deserve a whole article onto itself, considering how much appeared to happen every time.

    Looking forward to your next piece and thanking you again for this one,

    Sincerely Yours,

    Vincent Metais.

  7. Thank you for the fantastic photos Mr Evans a real pleasure and a great piece of history..I was born in the village of Sciara on the other side of the valley from Cerda in full view of each other.I also enjoyed the beautiful seanery that some of the pictures provided.In some early photos you can actually see my home town.My father was actually born there in 1906 and his father had a Vineyard in the area called la Canna, where the actual races started.I have allways heard of these races but not to this magnatude,and never knew these fantastic photos even exsisted.The next time i visit there i will make it a must to do the circuit in my car.By the way i will be staying in a bed,breakfast called TARGAFLORIO.

    Sincerely yours

    Michael Fragale

  8. My grandfather W A Hollick (British) took part in the 1907 race. I have a photograph of him in his car at the race.Must have been quite an adventure!