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Targa Florio – History & Ultimate Guide

The Story. The People. The Winners

Targa Florio – The Ultimate Guide

The Norman conquest of southern Italy led to the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily, which was subsequently ruled by the Hohenstaufen, the Capetian House of Anjou, Spain, the House of Habsburg, and then finally unified under the House of Bourbon with the Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It became part of Italy in 1860 following the Expedition of the Thousand, a revolt led by Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian unification, and a plebiscite. Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region after the Italian constitutional referendum of 1946.

Targa Florio History & Story

Vincenzo FlorioVincenzo Florio was born in Palermo, Sicily on March 16, 1883, the youngest of the four sons of Ignatius Sr. and Baroness Giovanna d’Ondes Trigona. Vincenzo did not show any attitude for running the family winery business, which was firmly in the hands of his older bother Ignatius Jr. He longed to travel the world beyond Sicily and as soon as he could he traveled to Germany and France. While in Paris he came upon a showroom that contained a machine he had never seen before. The machine was a de Dion motor tricycles which he promptly purchased and had shipped back to Palermo. The new contraption caused quite a sensation as it was unloaded onto the dock. Unfortunately there it stayed due to the fact that there was not any gasoline available in all of Sicily! Urgent cables to Paris finally brought a shipment of the precious fuel. After the initial thrill of driving his new toy began to wear off he decided to have a race. The only problem was that his was the sole motor car on the island which would make for a poor race. It was decided that he would organize a handicap race between his car, a cyclist and a horseman. The cyclist was the first to drop out with cramps which put Vincenzo and his car in the lead, but the lead was short lived when his engine began to over heat. Scoring one last win in the battle of horse and machine the horseman galloped past to take the victory. Rather than wallowing in defeat Vicenzo vowed to return from France with a real motor car. He tried many different cars but the hilly Sicilian countryside proved too much for the fragile cars. Finally he turned to a new Italian manufacturer, Fiat.

Villino FlorioThe turn of the century Fiat was a company that believed in service and would send a representative to each customer to ensure that the customer was properly trained in the care and maintenance of their new car. To Sicily they sent a young apprentice named Felice Nazzaro who would soon make a name for himself as one of the first great racing car drivers. Nazzaro and Vincenzo became fast friends. He induced Nazzaro to stay in Sicily to take care of his growing stable of cars. Vincenzo’s rich friends did not sit still while all of this was taking place, they also bought cars and had them shipped to Sicily. Soon races were organized in Favorita Park. Feeling himself sufficiently experienced he decided to order a real racing car with which he could compete in races in the rest of Europe. Fiat fearing that Vincenzo was still too young and inexperienced, would not sell him the race car, refused by none other than Giovanni Agnelli without written permission by Don Ignazio and his mother! After much searching he bought a disassembled Panhard and had it rebuilt. Nazzaro brought the new car up to race readiness and in its first competition, Vicenzo Florio won a speed trial in Padua.

Sicily 1900Emboldened by this easy win he prepared to enter the infamous 1903 Paris to Madrid race. His brother Ignazio, hearing of this conspired to prevent his under-age brother from leaving the island and may actually have saved his life. The race was stopped short of the end after numerous fatal accidents that took the lives of spectators and drivers including the Renault brother Marcel. The next big race on the calendar was the race in Brescia which Vincenzo entered without his older brothers knowledge and in which he finished a respectable third. After he was finally judged to be of age and no longer the responsibility of his brother, Vincenzo entered every race that he could including the Kaiserpreis, the first French Grand Prix and the Gordon Bennett Cup.

Brescia, in Northern Italy, was was already the Italian center for motor racing, 22 years before the first Mille Miglia race was held. The wealthy young racing enthusiast from Sicily generously funded the 1905 “Brescia Motor Week” on September 2-10, 1905. He donated 50,000 lire and a Cup for the winner. The “Coppa Florio” was born: it was to be held until 1929. The winner on September 10 in Brescia was Giovanni Battista Raggio driving an Itala 100 HP, 14.8 liters. Vincenzo finished ninth in his Mercedes 125 HP, 14 liters, some 45 minutes behind Raggio.

Targa Florio CircuitIn 1905 while attending a sporting competition Florio was asked by Henri Desgrange, editor of L’Auto and founder of the Tour De France: “Why do you not have a motor race in Sicily?” Florio startled by the question could only respond: “Why, because we have no roads.” Upon his return home he had his associates look into the matter of road and they convinced Florio that a course could be built. Florio also commissioned a jeweler to craft a targa (Italian for plaque or plate) that was to be awarded to the winner. In addition there would be cash prizes: 30,000 lire for the winner, 10,000 for second place and 5,000 for third. The Targa Florio was not so much a race as it was an ordeal. Established in 1906  a single lap at la Madonie, East of Palermo was approximately 92 miles.

Besides the course which traversed mountain roads unchanged since the Punic Wars, there were severe changes in climate, local bandits and the ever present packs of wolves waiting to feast on any unfortunate driver. Each hairpin competed with a sheer abyss for the driver’s attention over a 3 lap race of 277 miles. Road elevation rose from 30’ (10m) above sea-level to some 3,300’ (1010m).

The start/finish line would be placed at the Cerda railway station with the town itself just up the road, if you can call a village a town without a garage or a single hotel. This forced the teams to locate to Termini Imerese, an ancient town on the coast towards Palermo. The Grand Hotel des Thermes included a hot spring where the drivers could relax after a hard day of driving.

Initially there were few rules and the event was open to standard or production cars of which at least ten identical models had been built. The 1st Targa Florio was held on the 6th of May, 1906 with the first car scheduled to start-off at 6:00 am Only ten cars made it to the starting line due to strikes in France and a delay at the dock in Genoa. The race lasting 3-laps would be one of attrition that included among its victims, Vincenzo. One of the entrants was a husband and wife team, the wife serving as the mechanic. Unfortunately no record of their experiences or whether their marriage survived the race exists. Two cars suffered from water being mistaken for gasoline and required the complete draining of each car’s fuel tanks. After nine hours the race was over and the winner for the Italia team was Alessandro Cagno at an average speed of 29.06 mph. He was followed over a half hour later by Ettore Graziani in another Italia. 3rd came Paul Bablot driving a French Berliet 24/40 hp. Henri Fournier the winner of the legendary Paris–Bordeaux and Paris–Berlin city to city races failed to finish, suffering a broken rear axle. The event proved very popular with the local populace and next years race brought more than 50 entries.

In 1907 the 2nd Targa Florio was held on April 22. Like its younger cousin, the Mille Miglia, this race could only be won by driving flat out and after the inaugural race the returning teams had a better understanding of the conditions in which this race was run. At 3 laps this year’s race would cover 277.42 tortuous miles.

Targa Florio 1906Forty-five cars started the race with Fiat’s entry led by Vincenzo Lancia and Felice Nazzaro considered one of the early favorites. At the end of the first lap it was Lancia’s Fiat in the lead followed by last year’s winner Cagno. After a slow start the Darracq of Louis Wagner began to gain on the leaders. Soon he passed the first lap leader, Lancia, only to find himself second behind Nazzaro. Still he came on, and soon he could see Nazzaro just ahead of him on the road. But alas his engine revs shot up yet his car slowed down and then he found the reason, a broken drive shaft had done him in. Nazzaro had won the second Targa Florio followed by Lancia in 2nd and Maurice Fabry who was the London agent for Itala driving an Itala in 3rd. Since Nazzaro was known to many of the locals, his victory was very popular with the fans. His winning time proved an hour and fourteen minutes faster than Cagno’s time at the inaugural race. Communication during the race was non-existent. No one, not the driver, his competitors, his team manager or the crowd would know how the race was going until the lap was over and the timekeepers could work out the positions of the racers, which were marked on a large board. In later years, many fans would bring their own stopwatches as they recorded the times of their favorite drivers. This lack of communication would make strategy almost impossible except to race flat out.

1908 Targa FlorioThe 3rd Targa Florio held on the 18th of May, 1908 had only thirteen entries after the French decided to stay away, except for the Italian-born French automobile racing driver Jean Porporato, born Giovanni Giacomo Bernardo Porporato, who was driving a Berliet. Besides the two Fiats for Nazzaro and Lancia there were three were cars from Isotta Fraschini for Trucco, Giovanzani and Minoia. Itala had a single car for Antonio Pizzagalli and their were three cars from the Società Piemontese Automobili (SPA) for Ernesto Ceirano, Giovanni-Battista Raggio, and Giuseppe Venezia. The start was under a clear blue sky and the two Fiats of Nazzaro and Vincenzo Lancia were soon fighting for the lead, before a broken steering pivot forced Nazzaro to retire. The race was won by Vincenzo Trucco in a Isotta Fraschini after Lancia unnecessarily pitted for tires, after which he came in 2nd, followed by the SPA of Ernesto Ceirano in 3rd. The fastest lap was set by Felice Nazzaro who completed the 1st lat in 2h 33m03s at an average speed of 36.25 mph. In comparison the fastest lap at the French Grand Prix later that year was 78 mph set by Otto Salzer in a Mercedes. Baron Cammarata not a big fan of the spectators that trampled part of his wheat field decided to flood his fields that bordered the circuit.

1908 Messina EarthquakeThe 4th Targa Florio held on the 2nd of May 1909 was almost canceled after an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Messina the previous December. Moments after the quake hit a 30 foot wave from a tsunami enveloped nearby coasts causing even more devastation. Over 90% of the structures in Messina were destroyed, killing more than 155,000 in the surrounding area. Florio was determined that the race must go forward in 1909 but it was reduced to a single lap of 92 miles (148 km). Eleven cars started and was won by a Società Piemontese Automobili (S.P.A.) 28/40 driven by Baron Francesco Ciuppa, becoming the first Sicilian to win the race. Vincenzo Florio driving a Fiat and Guido Airoldi in a Lancia came in second and third. The Baron would later became a member of the organizing committee for the Targa Florio.

A serious depression struck the European motoring industry and the French Grand Prix was cancelled, not to be run again until 1912. Automobile racing in 1910 was facing new competition, not on the road but in the air with the public captivated by the new flying machines. The 5th Targa Florio, held on the 15th of May, was run in conjunction with voiturettes (Light Cars). the race was dominated by Lion-Renaults which scored a 1-2-3 with Georges Boillot winning followed by Giosué Guippone and Jules Goux. Tullio Cariolato, in fourth was given credit for winning the Targa for standard cars.

Targa FlorioAbout the same time, the Florio family was experiencing a number of personal tragedies. Their business empire crashed due to highly speculative u=investments and it was necessary to sell off a large portion of their holdings. Three Florio children died over a two-year period and Vincenzo’s wife fell victim to cholera in 1911.

The 6th Targa Florio was held on the 14th of May. There were fourteen starters of which five finished. The race was won by Ernesto Ceirano now driving a Scat 22/32 hp 4.4, 2nd was Mario Cortese driving a Lancia followed by Russian Basilio Soldatenkoff, who’s real name was actually Vasiliy Soldatenkov in a Mercedes. The race marked the first appearance of a car from Alfa Romeo in a major event. In 1912 for the 7th Targa Florio the circuit was increased to nearly 1,000 km around the perimeter of the island. This was considered somewhat a political maneuver since the Targa committee was attempting to spur authorities into developing the roads in this area of the country. The race experienced a noticeable increase in starters with 26 cars and drivers showing up for the start of of the race which would be spread over two days, the 25th and 26th of May. Fifteen managed to finish and for the first time a non-Italian won: Englishman Cyril Snipe driving an Italian SCAT. One drawback to the new 1,000 km course was that it took the winning car 24h 37m 19s to complete the race. The car, was backed by John Newton and a R. O. Harper of Manchester, England, and built by the Societa Ceirano di Automobili Torino, its designer was Signor Ernesto Ceirano. The Ceirano brothers, Giovanni Battista, Giovanni, Ernesto and Matteo, were very influential in the founding of the Italian auto industry with companies such as Spa and Itala.

In 1913 the 8th Targa Florio would continue with two legs over two days – 11-12 May. The success of this was evidenced by 33 entrants showing up at the starting line in Palermo. Italians restored their dominance with Felice Nazzaro driving his own car, a Nazzaro Tipo 2 completing the course over four hours faster than Snipe did in 1912. Scat came with three cars but all failed to finish. In 2d place was a Aquila Italiana driven by Giovanni Marsaglia who was followed by Alberto Mariani driving a De Vecchi in 3rd. De Vecchi & C., founded by Giuseppe De Vecchi in Milan would switch to building aircraft engines during the war while its chassis was modified for use on ambulances, trucks and even an early four-wheel-drive artillery tractor. Following the conflict, De Vecchi withdrew from the company and forced into liquidation in 1919, it changed hands and became CMN (Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali), which continued production of some of the pre-war cars. When motorsports resumed, two CMN’s driven by Ugo Sivocci and a young Enzo Ferrari were entered in the 1919 Targa Florio.

The story was much the same in 1914 for the 9th Targa Florio, held on May 24-25, with an Italian driver and Italian car – Ernesto Ceirano driving a Scat 22/32 – knocking another 21⁄2 hours off the lap time. Slowly the Targa Florio was brought back to life only to be stopped during World War 1.

Targa Florio

After the war the organizers were determined to restart the race so that in November of 1919 a new 10th Targa Florio would be reborn. The circuit was shortened to 67 miles but the race was increased to four laps for a total of 268 miles. The war had deprived the Targa Florio of the great Peugeot driver Georges Boillot who was shot down in a dogfight with a squadron of German fighters. In his place was his brother André Boillot driving a 2 1/2 liter Peugeot originally built before the war. Another entrant of later note was a twenty-one year old driver, Enzo Ferrari, driving a CMN Isotta Fraschini in his first major race. A Milanese car dealer, Antonio Ascari brought two Fiats that had been developed for the cancelled 1917 Indianapolis 500.

The weather for the November 23rd race was abysmal and saw Antonio Ascari driving for FIAT disappear into the distance, or more accurately into a ravine where he was rescued after the race. The circuit was a muddy mess as were the drivers. If this were not enough, mist shrouded the mountains, while hail and gale-force winds swept down the narrow valleys.

Enzo Ferrari at the Targa Florio1919 Targa Florio - Antonio AscariWhile all this was happening Rene Thomas, driving a Ballot was serenely in the lead, attempting to stay out of trouble in the dangerous conditions or at least he was until his frantic crew were finally able to warn him of a fast approaching André Boillot. But for Thomas it was not enough as the Peugeot of Boillot flashed past. Only a mistake by Boillot could save Rene Thomas now, but still he would not give up and thus increased his speed. For Boillot all that was left was a mad dash down the finishing straight. Racing to the point of exhaustion he braked for the final corner – but he had braked too late for the treacherous conditions and the back of the car spun and hit the grandstand just thirty feet from the finish line. Dazed and bloodied Boillot and his mechanic were pushed free from the structure and crossed the line in reverse! Shouts of protest greeted the crew but out from the crowd walked Ernest Ballot, the owner of the rival and second place car convinced a dejected André Boillot to return to his car, drive back to the point of their crash and re-cross the line in the right direction. Sacrificing a possible victory for his own car, Ballot’s decision met with the approval of the crowd and André Boillot was declared the winner where upon he fainted straight away.

1920 Targa FlorioThe 11th Targa Florio was held on the 24th of October, 1920 and once again strong rains greeted the competitors. Ferrari finished second behind Guido Meregalli (Nazzaro GP) after Alfa Romeo’s team leader Campari had retired. Ferrari driving an Alfa Romeo 40/60 also recorded the fastest lap. Third place was Luigi Lopez driving a Darracq.

The race in 1921 saw the 12th Targa Florio finally come of age with the appearance of the first full works team. Alfa Romeo entered four specially prepared cars driven by Antonio Ascari, Giuseppe Campari, Ugo Sivocci and Enzo Ferrari while Fiat entered two new cars. But it was the amateur Count Guilio Masetti and Max Sailor driving a Mercedes who dominated the race. The Mercedes was a factory entrant in all but name, a 7.25-litre 6-cylinder monster that was driven in the 1913 Indianapolis 500 by Ralph de Palma. The battle between the two was finally won by Masetti in a “one off” Grand Prix Fiat. Less that ten minutes covered the first six cars.

1922, the 13th Targa Florio saw the introduction of racing categories or classes. Touring and Sports cars were in classes established by engine displacement while all the pure race cars were lumped into one group. The race was run for 4 laps on a shortened variant of the Madonie course known as the Polizzi circuit, cutting out some of the mountains from the pre-war circuit. On the starting line, the 2nd of April were four German car builders Mercedes, Steyr, Austro-Daimler and Wanderer. The Italians were represented by Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Diatto and Itala. All told there were 42 starters of which there were 24 classified. The Mercedes team had not left anything to chance and had arrived a month before the race with 20 drivers and mechanics for tests. Count Giulio Masetti driving a Mercedes GP/14 repeated as the overall winner. Jules Goux and Giulio Foresti driving Ballots came in 2nd and 3rd. It was reported by a member of the press that a Fiat driven by the great Felice Nazzaro had over turned killing the famous driver and his mechanic. Luckily the story proved to be far off the mark, the actual driver was his nephew Biaggio who was thrown clear of the crash and suffered only minor scrapes and bruises. Enrico Giaccone who ran out of spare tires had to stop several times for flats and eventually pumped his way into fifth position having to watch both Giulio Foresti’s Ballot and Antonio Ascari’s Alfa Romeo pass him by.

Alfa RL1923 would prove a down year for the 14th Targa Florio with only fifteen starters gathered on the 15th of April. Ugo Sivocci beat Antonio Ascari to the line, both driving Alfa Romeos. Nando Minoia was third in a Steyer while Count Masetti was fourth in a private Alfa Romeo. Famously superstitious, Sivocci painted a green cloverleaf symbol on a white background on the bonnet of his Giuseppe Merosi designed Alfa Romeo RL, and after he won the Targa Florio in 1923 that symbol was adopted by the Alfa Romeo team and used to this day as a good luck token on all its race team cars. Just as 1923 had been a down year the opposite was true in 1924. MercedesThe 15th Targa Florio saw Mercedes enter cars for Christian Werner, Lautenschlager and Alfred Neubauer. While Alfa Romeo had cars for Ascari, Campari and pre-war veteran driver Louis Wagner. Count Masetti entered a private Alfa Romeo. Fiat had one supercharged car for Carlos Salamano but when he was injured in a practice accident Felice Nazzaro offered to take his place, that was until he test drove the car and found it’s handling not to to his liking. This left Pietro Bordino to race the car. After the first lap, five cars were vying for the lead, but eventually the race boiled down between a battle between Werner’s Mercedes and Ascari’s Alfa. Alfred Neubauer finished thirteenth with his co-driver Ferdinand Porsche while Christian Werner won in a Mercedes after Antonio Ascari and his co-driver Giulio Ramponi were forced to push their stricken car over the line.

In 1925 Peugeot entered a team of four cars against a new Bugatti works team. The 16h Targa Florio was held under warm and sunny conditions on the 3rd of May and after the first lap Louis Wagner was first on time but following his Peugeot teammate, Christian Dauvergne on the road. Wagner was preparing to pass when suddenly Dauvergne crashed. His mechanic was thrown clear but Dauvergne was trapped under the car which began to burn. His mechanic, stunned but unhurt for the most part tried to free his driver with the help from some spectators when Wagner came upon the scene. Seeing what was happening Wagner immediately stopped to render assistance and together they finally freed Dauvergne, badly burned but still alive. Wagner resumed his race but by then he had given over the lead to Meo Constantini. He would finish 2nd to the Italian’s Bugatti. This would mark the beginning of the Bugatti era at the Targa Florio, where unlike their lack of success at the Mille Miglia they would dominate in Sicily including 1926, at the 17th Targa Florio when they scored a 1-2-3 led by Constantini, last years winner. The race would start tragically when two-time winner Guilio Masetti would crash fatally on the first lap when his Delage hit a bank and rolled over crushing the driver. His body remained under the overturned car, guarded by a lone carabiniere throughout the race a grim reminder to all that passed who but for the grace of God could suffer a similar fate.

Count Guilio MasettiHe was known as the Lion of Madonie for his mastery of the Targa Florio in the 1920s. Born of noble birth, Count Giulio Masetti da Bagnano was born in Vinci, Italy in 1894. He and his brother, Carlo who would also become a racing car driver were raised at the Castello di Uzzano, a palace in Greve in Chianti owned by the Masetti di Bagnano family since 1644. Masetti acquired his first car, a 4.5-litre Fiat S57 B14 from Antonio Ascari with which he raced and won the 1921 Targa Florio. His privately entered ex-Otto Salzer 1914 Mercedes 4.5-litre 115 HP 18/100 won the following year. He later joined the joining the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq team where his best finish was third in a Sunbeam 135 bhp 2-litre at the 1925 French Grand Prix. He was supposed to drive a Darracq in 1926 but it was late in arriving so drove the Delage instead. Some have surmised that it was brake failure that caused his fatal crash, perhaps unwilling to believe a simple driver mistake could have caused the death of a Lion.

Meo CostantiniAt the end of the season Bartolomeo “Meo” Costantini, winner of the last two Targas decided to retire from driving and took over as racing team manager full-time at Bugatti. Born on the 14th of February, 1989, Costantini was a flying ace in WWI having been awarded three times for bravery, he retired as a Major. In 1923 he joined Bugatti and was their racing manager until 1935 when Bugatti’s son Jean took the position.

Costantini would over see a veritable army of Bugattis at the next Targa. In addition to works T35Cs for Materassi, Dubonnet and Minoia there were privately entered T35s and T37s which Costantini supported as well. Opposition would come from a 4-litre driven by André Boillot and a team of Tipo 26 Maseratis.

The 18th Targa Florio held on April 24th, 1927 saw 22 starters. Minoia grabbed the early lead only to be forced out with a broken torque arm. Mme Junek driving a privately entered Bugatti crashed into a wall when something in her steering box broke. Materassi took the lead and went on to win, recovering from an off track excursion on the 3rd lap. He was followed by Count Caberto Conelli in another private Bugatti, this being one of the T37s. The Maserati 26B driven by Alfieri Maserati came in 3rd. Alfieri along with his brothers had founded the famous Maserati sports car company in Bologna. Dubonnet in the other works Bugatti came in sixth. In honor of their 3rd win in a row the team was awarded a donkey, named Totosche by Vincenzo Florio which was happily taken back to Molsheim to live, that is until the Germans came.

1928 - Targa Florio. 26B, with Ernesto Maserati in paddock - mechanic in carThe 1928 edition of the race would see thirty-seven cars at the starting line. The favorites were last year’s winners, the Bugatti team consisting of Albert Divo on a 2.3-litre machine, Louis Chiron and Count Brilli-Peri on the 2-litres, and Count Conelli and the veteran Nando MinoIa on the 1,500 C.C. Alfa Romeo had two cars for Guiseppe Campari and Attilio Marinoni, while Maserati had cars for Ernesto Maserati, the Marquis de Sterlich, Baconin Borzzachini, Salvatore Marano and Luigi Fagioli. The bulk of the field was made up of amateurs of various skill including a former motorcycle racer by the name of Tazio Nuvolari driving a privately entered Bugatti. Nuvolari had expected to drive a works Bugatti but a dispute between Nuvolari, who could be a hard man when it came to racing and Bugatti race manager Meo Costantini saw any offer disappear.

Albert DivoAt eight o’clock on the morning of Sunday, 6th May, at the 19th Targa Florio the first car was sent off on its long journey, followed at one minute intervals by the remaining 36, each eager to win the dual prize, the Targa for the driver and the Florio Cup for the manufacturer of the winning car. By the end of the first first lap Chiron was in the lead followed by Campari, Divo, Junek and Nuvolari. Incredibly after lap to the female driver Elizabeth Junek was in the lead! Engine trouble ended the day for Nuvolari as well as Brilli-Peri. By the third lap Campari had bullied himself into the lead but Junek was not done yet, holding onto 2nd place. The 1,100cc class race was done and the Fiat’s of Riccioli and Rallo finishing 1-2 as they were the only cars in their class to make it that far. It was two more laps for the bigger cars and Campari, Junek and Divo rounded out the top three. As Campari led into the last lap, it looked as if Bugatti’s string of victories in the Targa was about to end. But such was not to be. Count ConelliIn order to save weight, the Alfa-Romeos only carried one spare wheel, and as fate would have it, Campari burst his spare, and had to drive six miles on the rim to his next tyre depot!

In the meantime, Divo made a final sprint which took him ahead of Campari and of Madame Junek, who was also passed by Conelli and Chiron. The final results had Albert Divo driving a Bugatti T35B, 1st with a time of 7 hours 20 minutes 56 seconds followed by Guiseppe Campari less than two minutes behind him in one of the closest races that the Targa has ever provided. Behind Campari came one of his compatriots, Count Conelli, only 17 seconds later in a race of 335 miles. Fourth place was Louis Chiron and fifth came the Czechoslovakian, Madame Junek, who was only nine minutes behind the winner, slowed by water leak that caused her engine to overheat.

Elizabeth JunekBorn Alžběta Pošpíailová, Junek is regarded as one of the greatest female drivers in Grand Prix motor racing history. She used the name Eliška Junkov&aacut and was from the town of Olomouc in Moravia. Nicknamed “smisek” for her ever-present smile, she dreamt of traveling the world and loved to study foreign languages. She got a job in the Olomouc bank and it was there that she met Vincenc “Cenek” Junek, an ambitious young man who had been discharged from the army after being shot in the hand. Vincenc loved cars and racing and in 1922 he won the Zbraslav-Jiloviste hill climb. He also married Eliška that year. They started racing together in local events but because of his wartime injury, Cenek had trouble shifting gears and so Eliška, who started as his riding mechanic, took over the driving duties. That year they bought a Mercedes and a Bugatti Type 30 which had been raced in the Grand Prix de France at Strasbourg. Cenek gave the Bugatti to his wife in 1923. As Eliška gained fame throughout Europe, her name was anglicized to Elizabeth and by 1926 was good enough to compete in races around Europe against the best male drivers of the time. In 1926, she first competed in the Targa Florio in Sicily, a race where physical strength was a necessity. Although her vehicle crashed and she was out of the race, her performance earned her a great deal of respect. Bugatti T35BShortly thereafter, she won the two-liter sports car class at Nürburgring, Germany, making her the only woman in history to have ever won a Grand Prix race. It was at the Nürburgring in another race that they were sharing the driving duties that her husband went off course and was killed instantly. Devastated, she gave up racing and sold her vehicles.

With communist rule in Czechoslovakia she was largely forgotten by the motor racing world. At the age of 91 and against the advice of her doctor, she attended a Bugatti reunion in the United States, as the guest of honor.

Alfa Romeo 6c 1750 SSThe 20th Targa Florio held on 5th of May, 1929 was run under warm sunshine and saw a battle between five works Bugattis and 3 of the works Alfa Romeos. Of the 19 starters, only 4 actually finished the race. Even with the extra power the Alfas could not stay ahead of the more nimble Bugattis. Albert Divo repeated last year’s victory driving a Bugatti T35 followed by his teammate Ferdinando Minoia in 2nd, with Gastone Brilli-Peri in 3rd driving the Alfa Romeo 6C-1750 SS and his teammate Giuseppe Campari in 4th.

20 Alfa Romeo 6c 1750 SS - G.Brilli Peri

1930 Targa Florio - Achille VarziBugattis would win three races in a row but things would change in 1930, Tazio Nuvolari and Achille Varzi continued their intense rivalry at the 21st Targa Florio. Both drove Alfas but Varzi’s was the more powerful P2. On May 4th, at the start of the race Varzi stormed into the lead but trouble struck when his spare wheel worked itself lose along the jarring mountain roads. The wheel would puncture his fuel tank causing him to stop more often for fuel. At the last stop his riding mechanic grabbed a spare fuel can. While racing along a downhill stretch his mechanic attempted to refuel the car. Unfortunately a high IQ was not the chief prerequisite for being a racing mechanic and the car caught fire when some of the fuel spilled onto the hot exhaust. Varzi unwilling to stop and lose the race to his bitter rival continued on while his mechanic beat the fires furiously with his seat cushion. They would in effect blaze their way to a win and thus they won the race in truly spectacular fashion.


Varzi in late 1930, feeling that the Alfa Romeo team was favoring his arch rival Tazio Nuvolari decided to take up Alfieri Maserati’s offer to drive his new Maserati Type 26M cars for the Coppa Acerbo which Varzi would win. Maserati was all set to employ Varzi for the following season but the Milanese driver looking at his options decided to join Bugatti instead where he would be driving the new 2.3 litre twin-cam Type 51 Bugatti. The fact that he would be leaving two very fast team-mates; the Luigis, Fagioli and Arcangeli at Maserati may also have figured into his calculations.

Maserati 26MA landslide had carried away part of the road near Polizzi and the 22nd Targa Florio would be run over the old and longer Madonie Circuit, which was used for the first races from 1906 to 1911, and which rises from sea level to 4,000 ft., with a total length of 90.4 miles of which 4 laps would be completed and the 1931 Targa Florio would take place on 10th May, according to plan.

Having decided to race with Bugatti in 1931, Varzi was shocked to find out that Ettore Bugatti had decided to skip this year’s race. Bugatti had been absent from the factory, recovering from an auto accident and the firm was behind on some orders. 1931 Bugatti Type 51Having won five of the previous six Targas this did not please the organizers either though some of the competitors may have had their hopes raised. Varzi could not see himself not defending last years title so he would enter a “private” Bugatti, new racing model with the twin overhead camshaft engine, though painting it red. As compensation Varzi wore blue overalls.

Alfa-Romeo of Milan recognized that Varzi, even by himself would prove a potent foe and thus had made its preparations as originally planned. Two of the new 2,300 c.c. straight-eight racing cars would be available for Tazio Nuvolari and Luigi Arcangeli who had moved from Maserati. Guiseppe Campari had one of the older type 1,750 c.c. 6-cylinder cars, which has long been his favorite mount for the Madonie Circuit, plus two more for Borzacchini and Guido d’Ippolito. The Maserati team had three cars 2-Litre 26Ms to be driven by Fagioli, Biondetti and Dreyfus.

When Sunday morning dawned and the sun shown over the starting line there were black clouds hanging low over the mountains. Jano, the chief engineer of Alfa-Romeo had his mechanics fitting mud guards to his cars, except that of Arcangeli. The headlines in the newspapers blared, “Varzi against the rest!” The starter’s flag dropped, and the twenty-second Targa Florio had begun with Varzi leaping into the lead. The pack followed at five minute intervals. Rene Dreyfus driving for Maserati was off without his mechanic had developed a bad case of sea-sickness, not in the cross-over from the mainland but when going round the course in practice! Rather than being sprayed more than just rain water, Dreyfus preferred to fill the passenger’s seat with a large spare oil tank. From the start at Cerda to Caltavutoro, a distance of 18 miles of difficult uphill road, Varzi took advantage of the clear run his starting position gave him. Borzacchini was the next fastest and Fagioli was third at this point. Two miles beyond Castellana and coming down a steep hill at high speed, Fagioli entered a difficult bridge over a mountain torrent a little optimistically and hit the parapet, bending his axle and the chief hope of the Maserati team was now out. At Petralia, 38 miles from the start and 3,200 ft. above sea-level, Varzi still led with Borzacchini hot on his heels. Together they climbed another 500 ft. to the summit of the mountain, and then when the descent began the Bugatti began to increase its lead, howling downhill on second and third gears. When the first lap was completed it was Varzi over Borzacchini followed by Nuvolari and Campari..

1931 Targa Florio - Tazio NuvolariAt the end of the first round Nuvolari pitted for two new tyres as a precautionary measure and caught his team unawares causing him to lose precious time. The light drizzle was now beginning to come down harder. On the second lap, near the summit of the mountain Biondetti, blinded by the mud and water, misjudged a bend and crashed in much the same manner as had Fagioli on the first lap and another Maserati race was done. The race still had Varzi in the lead but Nuvolari was now second followed by Campari and Borzacchini. Unlike other races, at the Targa while in the pit any number of people are allowed to work on the cars while the driver and his mechanic remain in their seats, not an easy thing for someone like Nuvolari. While seated they are given refreshment, possibly some vino or even a cigarette, in the case of Varzi but still he led and ever frustrated Nuvolari as they began the last lap followed by Borzacchini and Campari. The conditions continued to deteriorate and Nuvolari was slowly catching his bitter rival, thinking of a way pass. Yet try as he might Nuvolari could not pass Varzi who must have thought another great victory was his as he crossed the finish and was greeted with great applause. Astoundingly it was Nuvolari, who never gave up in any race that he started who was ahead of Varzi arriving at the finish in a shorter over all time, under pouring rain and the crowd mostly unaware of the actual victor. Nuvolari was shortly thereafter followed by Borzacchini in second place. A dejected Varzi, informed by his team could only claim third.

1932 Targa Florio - Tazio NuvolariFor the 23rd Targa Florio of 1932 he requested of Enzo Ferrari a mechanic who weighed as little or less than he. Nuvolari took the young and inexperienced mechanic that Ferrari had given him and told him that he would warn him when they approached a particularly difficult corner so as not to unduly frighten the young man. As they approached a corner, Nuvolari would shout for the mechanic to take cover under the dashboard. After the race and another victory for Nuvolari, Ferrari asked the mechanic how he had made out. “Nuvolari started shouting at the first bend and finished at the last one,” the boy answered. “I was down at the bottom of the car all the time.”

The race was held on the 8th of May with a change to the circuit. Florio approached Mussolini asking for help in building a loop road that would allow the circuit to bypass some of the mountain portion of the the race which was dominated by Nuvolari driving and Alfa Romeo 2.3 litre Monza the results were almost the same as the previous race but with Louis Chiron sharing the driving with Varzi in the third place Bugatti. Chiron had needed Varzi to relieve him in his Bugatti.

In 1933 date conflicts meant that neither Nuvolari or Varzi made that year’s 24th Targa Florio. The Alfa Romeo factory had withdrawn from racing but the Scuderia Ferrari continued to race modified last year’s cars. The race held on the 28th of May had Baconin Borzacchini leading at the end of the first lap with a time of 54m11s, followed by Antonio Brivio 1 minute 14s behind. By the 3rd lap Borzacchini was still leading the race and continued to add to the gap making the fastest lap. Everything looked set for a clear victory for the popular but unlucky man from Terni. On the fourth lap Borzacchini got a puncture near Collesano, the delay dropping him nine minutes behind Brivio who had taken over the lead. When Borzacchini tried to make up for the lost time he made a mistake and hit a stone wall near Collesano. While he managed to take the car back to the pits he was forced to retire with broken suspension. Brivio was now leading and took the flag by 20 minutes over the second place driver, Renato Balestrero; third was Guglielmo Carraroli. Alfa with their Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 would take the first five places..

The dominance of one make, Alfa Romeo was seriously jeopardizing the health of the Targa Florio. The organizers pleaded with the other manufacturers to continue to support the event but their pleading was falling on deaf ears. Alfa was also dominating the other major road race, the Mille Miglia, but the expense of shipping cars and personnel to the island was too much to bare if the team faced little hope of victory.

1934 Targa FlorioThe 25th Targa Florio held on May 20th in 1934 saw only a single Bugatti and a single Maserati entered and no Nuvolari to challenge Varzi driving one of ten Alfa Romeos. Rain made the course even more dangerous than usual. Giovanni Alloatti in a Bugatti went over a bridge parapet on the second lap and received wounds that eventually proved fatal. Pietro Ghersi in the works Alfa Romeo led for the first two laps but then went off and lost twenty minutes for repairs. His teammate Varzi took over the lead and dominated the rest of the race in the rain to take the win. Ferdinando ‘Nando’ Barbieri and Costantino Magistri finished 2nd and 3rd.

The 26th Targa Florio held on the 28th of April, 1935 had 19 starters, of these 11 were classified at the end of the race which was pretty much an Alfa Romeo affair. There had been some changes to the organization and Vincenzo Florio, the founder of the race, had retired from the Sicilian Automobile Club. The character of the race was changed as the Formula Libre rules that had encouraged amateurs were replaced by strict 1.5 litre sports cars rules. Even the race had been renamed as the “Targa Primavera Siciliana” but two weeks before the race it was thankfully announced that the old title would be retained. The Scuderia Ferrari entered Alfa Romeo Tipo-B P3s for Carlo Pintacuda Antonio Brivio and Louis Chiron who dominated the race.

Umberto, Prince of Piedmont was to start the race and with the Prince being the heir apparent, the start of the race was moved back to a more “princely” time. At approximately 11:15 the race was started under blue skies and Chiron took an early lead followed by Pintacuda, Brivio and Fernando Barbieri. At the end of the first lap the order was Chiron, Brivio, Constantino Magistri and Pintacuda. On the second lap Brivio took over the lead and Chiron, who was in trouble with his car, also had to let Magistri by. Later Chiron managed to take back his second position. Pintacuda who was never higher than fourth retired at the end of the 3rd lap with a broken differential. Brivio continued his dominant drive and took the flag nearly 7 minutes in front of his team mate Chiron who was followed by Ferdinando ‘Nando’ Barbieri driving a Maserati 4CM. Six privately entered Alfa Romeos would follow while local driver Giuseppe Sutera entered a supercharged 6-cylinder O.M. 665 the last time an O.M. (Officine Meccaniche) took part in a major race, did not finish.

Alfa Rpmeo P3Such was the dominance of Alfa Romeo at the previous year’s race no other manufacture would commit to attending the 27th Targa Florio that was delayed until the end of the year. Without suitable competition Alfa Romeo decided to stay away as well, Facing cancellation, the organizers only saved the race at the last moment and not until the end of the year at that. The race would be held on the 20th of December and cover only two laps of the Piccolo Madonie circuit for 1-liter sports cars. Lancia took the first four places, led by Magistri’s 1.2-liter Augusta. Coming in 5th and 6th were two Fiat 1500s. The thirty year run of the Targa Florio was in definite danger of ending with a whimper.

From 1937 to 1940 the race was held at the 3 1/4 mile Parco della Favorita circuit in Palermo. The Targa Florio was now a shadow of its former greatness, held as a 1.5 litre voiturette race in a misguided attempt to attract back the crowd they had lost the years before. The new circuit was quite featureless, running on straight narrow park roads that were surrounded by tight bushes, and circling a little hippodrome in the south-east end of the park where the pits and start/finish line were located. Targa Florio was also the first “Prince of Naples Cup” Maserati would dominate the races first with a Maserati 6CM then in 1940 with a Maserati 4CL. Most of the immense holdings of the Florio family had been nationalized by the Fascist government in Sicily, which only paid a few pennies on the dollar in return. Vincenzo had resigned from the board of the local Auto Club and moved to Rome. He would return to Sicily only after the fall of the regime.

The 28th Targa Florio was held on the 23rd of May, 1937. Giovanni Rocco led at the start of the sixty laps followed by Ettore Bianco and Francesco Severi. After 20 laps Rocco was leading by 33 seconds with Bianco and Severi having a stiff battle for 2nd. All three drivers exchanged the lead during pitstops until Bianco had to fix a broken oil pip and Rocco suffered a broken piston on lap 32. Francesco Severi won by two laps over Giovanni Lurani while Ettore Bianco recovered to 3rd, all driving Maseratis. The 29th Targa Florio was held on the 23rd of May, 1938 and was again run on the narrow Favorita Park circuit, so narrow in places that passing was forbidden on roughly a third of the course. To add further indignity the race was shortened to 30 laps.

The Targa Florio became an all Maserati event save for one lone Talbot driven by Luigi Platé. Count Giovanni Lurani and Ettore Bianco fought for the early lead only to be involve in accidents leaving Paul Pietsch in the lead until he retired and it was the turn of Luigi Villoresi and Aldo Marazza to fight for the lead. Their fierce battle caused both of the to crash out and Giovanni Rocco took the win in a Maserati 6CM. With still no Alfas or Mercedes cars competing the Maseratis had no problems to control the 1939 race, the 30th Targa Florio. Villoresi took the lead and opened up a one minute gap to Cortese, who was followed by Taruffi and Pietsch. With 8 laps to go Cortese had to retire with a broken gearbox leaving Villoresi to take the flag as the winner followed by seven other Maseratis. Villoresi won again the next year at the 31st Targa Florio held on the 23rd of May, which thankfully was the last race run on the Favorita Park circuit and in fact the last race on European soil. There would be no more Targas for the next eight years. During the Second World War, Vincenzo Florio who had moved to Rome with his wife was arrested by the Germans and held hostage by the Germans before being finally released. The fighting had left its mark on Sicily. The buildings along the sea-front at Palermo had been bombed into ruins, the grandstand at Cerda had been blown-up and the race control tower disassembled. The roads themselves were in an extremely poor state and when the Targa Florio returned to the motor racing calendar on the 3rd of April, 1948, it also thankfully returned to the Madonie Circuit in conjunction with the 8th Giro di Sicilia.

The race, revived, once again was run on the open roads of Sicily and covered approximately a thousand kilometers. The course ran from Palermo – Trapani – Marsala – Agrigento – Caltanissetta – Enna – Gela – Ragusa – Siracusa – Catania – Messina and back to Palermo. A total of eighty-six cars started the 32nd Targa Florio, running counter-clockwise around the island. The Targa Florio/Giro di Sicilia was the first International race in Italy after the end of World War II.

Official teams were entered by Maserati, Ferrari, Cisitalia, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. For Maserati, two 2-litre A6GCS for Villoresi and Ascari; for Ferrari one 166S driven by Franco Cortese. Two private Ferrari 166S were entered by Soave Besana and Prince Igor Troubetzkoy who hired Clemente Biondetti, a four-time Mille Miglia winner, as co-driver. Biondetti-Troubetzkoy won the race. The winning Ferrari 166 Inter Spyder Corsa was designed by Gioacchino Colombo, Angelo Nasi, Giuseppe Busso. The car was powered by a Colombo built V-12, the first of many famous V-12s that would be raced by the Italian company.

This was Ferrari’s first victory in a major automobile race since stating his own factory. The Ferrari 166 which won the race was actually a road car which was used when the race car was loaned to another driver. it seems that in the race, most of the pure racing cars experienced problems with the poor fuel available locally, however the road car ran without trouble on the way to victory. They were followed by the wonderful Fiat-powered Cisitalia 202 D Coupés of Piero Taruffi/Domenico Rabbia and Adolfo Macchieraldo/Antonio Savio, two of three specially built racing Corsas.

Targa Florio 1949Biondetti repeated the following year at the 33rd Targa Florio with Carlo Benedetti as his co-driver, again driving a Ferrari 166. The race, held on the 20th of March, 1949 was run in a downpour and Dorino Serafini driving a Frazer-Nash led during the early portion of the race but was forced to retire after hitting a kerb at Ragusa. This allowed Roberto Vallone driving a Ferrari 166 SC into the lead to Catania where rear-axle trouble ended his day. Franco Rol put up good fight until he was delayed by a freight train which pushed his Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione which he was sharing with Vincenzo Richiero to 2nd followed by Giovanni Rocco/Placido Priest driving a Alfa Romeo Priest 2500 in 3rd.

In 1950, at the 34th Targa Florio Clemente Biondetti was driving one of the new Jaguar XK120s that had been first shown at the 1948 London Motor Show. Running 2nd behind the Ferrari 195S of Alberto Ascari he assumed the lead when Ascari’s car went out with engine trouble and looked st for his 3rd win in succession until his Jaguar too failed. Franco Rol (Alfa Romeo), a wealthy sportsman and industrialist, and Franco Cortese (Frazer-Nash) took turns in the lead until split fuel tanks put both out. This left brothers, Mario Bornigia and Giancarlo Bornigia, auto dealers from Rome to take the win driving a Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione. Inico Bernabei /Tullio Pacini driving a Ferrari 166S finished 2nd followed by Stefano La Motta/Gennaro Alterio driving another Ferrari in 3rd.

Tazio NuvolariDriving a small 1.1 Litre Cisitalia/Abarth but crashing out early on was the greatest driver that has ever lived, Tazio Nuvolari, age 57 and driving his last major race. Nuvolari’s headlights had failed, so he went on in the dark, following the lights of another car for a long stretch. But the driver ahead of him was too slow, and Nuvolari decided to overtake him. Without any lights he crashed into another car on the roadside that had slid on the wet asphalt, and his race was over. A legend in his own lifetime, he was known as Il Montavano Volante, the Flying Mantuan. He epitomized courage and daring and for 30 years he amazed the racing world with his exploits on both two and four wheels. On August 11th, 1953, 9 months after suffering a paralyzing stroke he was dead.

“Whenever I think of him today, I feel myself smiling. He was so full of life, almost bursting. We were astounded by him as a driver and loved him as a man.” – René Dreyfus

Tazio Nuvolari

The 35th Targa Florio and the Giro di Sicilia went back to being separate events, with the Targa consisting of 8 laps over the 72 km Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie for a total of 576 km.

Frazer-NashThe race was held on the 9th of September with Giovanni Bracco driving a 4.1 litre Ferrari for Scuderia Marzotto, taking the early lead only for his car to quit on the 2nd lap. Undaunted Bracco took over the Ferrari of his teammate, Franco Cornacchia. With the bit between his teeth Bracco was able to climb back to 2nd. Franco Cortese took over the lead which he would not relinquish, driving a private entry British Frazer-Nash, the first and last British car to win the Targa Florio until 1977 when another Anglo-German Chevron B36 BMW.. Fraser-Nash were BMW importers and the cars including the engine was largely a direct evolution of the sporting BMW 328. Giovanni Bracco/Franco Cornacchia driving a Ferrari 212 Export came in 2nd followed by Inico Bernabei/Tullio Pacini driving a Maserati A6 GCS in 3rd.

With the arrival of Gianni Lancia as the head of the firm in 1937, Vittorio Jano, already famous from his work at Alfa Romeo, was taken on as technical director. In 1950 Vittorio Jano, the famous Fiat and Alfa Romeo automotive engineer developed the Lancia Aurelia which was powered by the first production V6 engine, a 60° design developed by Francesco de Virgilio. A competition version was soon built and racing success came swiftly. In action, the B20 GT silenced any doubts as to its sporting prowess by finishing second in the Mille Miglia in 1951, piloted by Giovanni Bracco and Umberto Maglioli, followed up this initial success with other victories including first in class and 12th overall at Le Mans. Lancias would win the next three Targa Florios. The winning driver for 1952, the 36th Targa Florio was Felice Bonetto who led a Lancia 1-2-3 with teammates Gino Valenzano and Enrico Anselmi 2nd and 3rd respectivly. Valenzano had met Gianni Lancia son of Vincenzo at Abarth and was invited by Lancia to join his racing team.

Lancia D20In 1953 Gianni Lancia wished to make a car with which to take part in the World Sportscar Championship, which was to start in 1953. A team of designers – consisting of Ettore Zaccone Mina for the engine, Francesco Faleo for the rolling chassis and Luigi Bosco for the transmission – set to work under Jano’s management to develop the D20. The engine with aluminum head and crankcase had detachable wet cylinder liners and only kept the six-cylinder, 60° V-architecture from the Aurelia. The double overhead valves were driven by four camshafts and featured two spark plugs for each cylinder. The Coupé bodywork, made by Pinin Farina, was supported by a framework chassis in welded steel tubing. In total, seven D20 cars took part in different sporting events during 1953.

Targa Florio 1953Umberto Maglioli would take one of the D20s and win the 37th Targa Florio. This would be Maglioli’s first of three wins in the event. Piero Taruffi was leading entering the last lap but a signal from his pits to go faster, unnecessarily it turned out causing him to overdue it and crash. The 1952 race winner, Felice Bonetto decided to take a reconnaissance lap an hour prior to the start of the race. The same idea occurred to the Fiat Stanguellin driver, Agostino Bignami … unfortunately in opposite directions. The resultant crash put both drivers out of the race but more or less unharmed except for their pride. Emilio Giletti driving Maserati A6 GCS/53 came in 2nd followed by Sergio Mantovani/Juan-Manuel Fangio driving a Maserati A6 GCS/53 in 3rd. Fangio was never a big fan of the race. In 1954 Lancia added to their Mille Miglia crown with a win in the Targa Florio when Piero Taruffi got his revenge driving a Lancia D24 to victory at the 38th Targa Florio, held on the 30th of May. He was followed by Luigi Musso in a Maserati A6 in 2nd and Roberto Piodi driving a Lancia Aurelia B20 in 3rd. The early leader, Castellotti crashed out of the race while Musso drove himself to exhaustion, having to stop along the road for water.

1954 Targa Florio - Piero Taruffi

After Lancia scored their third straight win in this classic race they decided to abandon sports car racing to concentrate on Formula 1, a move that would later bankrupt the company.

In 1953 the World Sportscar Championship (WSC) was established as the world series run for sports car racing by the FIA from 1953 to 1992. Originally only one race was included from Italy and that was the Mille Miglia. The Carrera Panamericana was dropped from the 1955 WSC calendar, and while the 1000 km Nürburgring was due to run, this was later cancelled following the tragedy at Le Mans. They were replaced by the Targa Florio. Mercedes had decided to quit racing after the 1955 season but one last major attempt was made to wrest the sports car championship from Ferrari. That attempt would be made at the 39th Targa Florio.

Mercedes-Benz high-speed transporter with the 300 SLR racing car, start number 106, of the Fitch/Titterington team

Led by Alfred Neubauer and his teams that were made up of the pairings Stirling Moss and Peter Collins, Juan-Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling and Desmond Titterington and John Cooper Fitch. They had five 300SLR’s, more than a dozen private cars, 45 mechanics and seven trucks. Because the roads were not closed prior to the race practice involved avoiding, pedestrians, wagons and the odd goat. The rules set for the three pairs of drivers was every man for themselves.

Juan Manuel Fangio, Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, 1955 Targa FlorioIn preparation for the race, the drivers practiced for a total of 16,695 kilometres to ensure that they were familiar with the circuit and its 900 curves. Owing to the length of the circuit, this was the first time Mercedes-Benz used radio communication to allow the main pits to keep the way station 29 kilometres away in touch with what was happening in the race. There, the drivers were informed about their position in the race by means of conventional sign boards. This years Targa Florio would entail 13 laps over a 44.64-mille circuit for a total of 580.32 miles. The teams of drivers were expected to complete almost 10 hours of driving combined. Neubauer was planning on each driver being able to run 4 lap stints. At the start of the race Moss set a blistering pace and broke the course record by two and a half minutes. Though his car was one of the last to be flagged off, he had passed everyone by the end of the first lap. Castellotti’s Ferrari split the Mercedes of Moss and Fangio.

Targa FlorioAt the end of the fourth lap Castellotti was in first place and Moss was in a ditch. Moss had crashed but the Mercedes was still in working order if slightly bruised. After help from some spectators Moss was back on the road but now in fourth place. Collins exchanged places with Moss and took up the chase. Fangio passed the leading Ferrari and handed his car to Kling. Mercedes were now in first, third and fourth. Trouble struck again when Collins drove straight up a stone wall, his front wheels spinning in the air. Fortunately he was able to put his car in reverse and rejoin the battle. Collins worked his way up to first before returning the car to Moss. Moss drove the only way that he knew how and won going away or in the words of Peter Collins “despite Stirling’s efforts and my own to write the machine off!” Mercedes won the race and with it the sports car championship only to quit racing for the second time.

I hardly slept at all the night before the race and felt pretty awful when I arrived at the start between the sea and the small town of Cerda. I perked up once seated in the car, and felt better still when I found myself in the lead! Castellotti, Ferrari’s great hope, lay second, with Fangio on his tail third. I accumulated a minute’s lead on my opening lap, and after three laps my cushion was five minutes. Then, far up in the mountains, I was just leaving a right-hand curve and had the car set up nicely through a fast left-hander when I lost control on either mud or loose gravel.

1955 Targa FlorioThe ‘SLR swung its tail out, just as it had that time in the Mille Miglia, bounced off a bank and hurtled straight off the edge of the road into space … I was quite frightened at this point, because for one terrifying moment I hadn’t a clue whether we were flying over a drop of three feet, or three hundred!’

Fortunately the roadside field sloped downhill just there, and when I crunched down to earth I had fallen only ten or twelve feet. The problem then was to find a way back on to the road, because the car, although battered, was still running. Some locals rushed to my assistance, and after a lot of maneuvering and pushing and yelling I managed to gun the car back on to the road and tear off towards the pits, but I had lost about twelve minutes and now lay a distant fourth.

I hardly slept at all the night before the race and felt pretty awful when I arrived at the start between the sea and the small town of Cerda. I perked up once seated in the car, and felt better still when I found myself in the lead! Castellotti, Ferrari’s great hope, lay second, with Fangio on his tail third. I accumulated a minute’s lead on my opening lap, and after three laps my cushion was five minutes. Then, far up in the mountains, I was just leaving a right-hand curve and had the car set up nicely through a fast left-hander when I lost control on either mud or loose gravel.

1955 Targa FlorioThe ‘SLR swung its tail out, just as it had that time in the Mille Miglia, bounced off a bank and hurtled straight off the edge of the road into space … I was quite frightened at this point, because for one terrifying moment I hadn’t a clue whether we were flying over a drop of three feet, or three hundred!’

Fortunately the roadside field sloped downhill just there, and when I crunched down to earth I had fallen only ten or twelve feet. The problem then was to find a way back on to the road, because the car, although battered, was still running. Some locals rushed to my assistance, and after a lot of maneuvering and pushing and yelling I managed to gun the car back on to the road and tear off towards the pits, but I had lost about twelve minutes and now lay a distant fourth.

1955 Targa Florio

Back at the pits, Neubauer, Peter and the crew had virtually given me up for lost until I came hurtling in. They checked the car very quickly and Peter took off with the bit firmly between his teeth to stage a brilliant recovery drive.

Stirling Moss – My Cars, My Career with Doug Nye

One year after the retirement of their countrymen from motorsport Porsche won a great victory at the 40th Targa Florio in 1956 with their new 550 A Spyder at what was then the world’s longest-standing and most difficult road race. The young company gained instant worldwide recognition as well as credibility with this victory, as it was the first time that a driver in a smaller racing class vehicle of up to two liters cylinder displacement managed to beat vehicles with a higher cylinder displacement.

At an average speed of 90.9 m/h and a lead of nearly 15 minutes on the second place vehicle, 1953 winner Umberto Maglioli had won again driving the entire 7:54.52 hours solo. Three years later Porsche won again and having tasted victory twice Porsche would continue to contest the race for the next two decades. Following the tragedy at the Mille Miglia public pressure was on the organizers to cancel the 41st Targa Florio in 1957 but a compromise was reached when it was replaced by what was called a regularity test where timing replaced outright speed. This charade was “won” by Fabio Colona driving a Fiat 600! The Lancia Appia driven by Piero Taruffi and his wife Isabella Taruffi won the larger class but nobody really cared as David slew Goliath.

Real racing returned for the 42nd Targa Florio in 1958 when a massive total of 65 racing cars were registered for this event, of which 53 arrived for practice. of these 15 thought better of it and 38 started race. The 42nd edition of the event, saw a change on the nature of the race. Single-driver entries would no longer be permitted with a maximum of seven laps out of the total race distance of 14 for each driver.

1958 Targa FlorioScuderia Ferrari had four works 250 TRs for Phil Hill/Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn/Wolfgang von Trips, Luigi Musso/Olivier Gendebien and Gino Munaron/Wolfgang Seidel. Aston Martin’s David Brown sent just one Aston Martin DBR1 for Stirling Moss/Tony Brooks, while Porsche arrived with three different cars, a 356A Carrera, a 550 RS and a 718 RSK, for their squad of Baron Antonio Pucci/Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, Giorgio Scarlatti/Edgar Barth and Jean Behra/Giorgio Scarlatti respectivly.

The day belonged to Luigi Musso and Olivier Gendebien who won in a Ferrari 250TR. Despite growing safety concerns the Targa Florio continued into the 60’s and early 70’s and the fans in close proximity to the cars witnessed some tremendous battles between Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Porsche. Ferrari 250 TRMaglioli would return to the scene of his triumph and would win another plaque 12 years after his first, this time driving a Lancia. As in the Mille Miglia the local Sicilian fans seemed oblivious to the danger posed by being within a simple spin of a powerful racing car without even a single armco barrier in sight.

Vincenzo FlorioOn January 6, 1959 Vincenzo Florio died at the age of 75, some say worn out from a lifetime of automobiles and racing that resulted in his Sicilian Dream at the home of his second wife. Florio’s, Donna Lucia, was named president of the Targa Florio organization. It was not a title she sought but rather one she accepted to honor her husband who had pleaded with her and his nephew : “Promise me that my Targa will not die with me” – as well as to please her nephew Cece Paladino and Raimondo Lanza di Trabia who would continue to be involved in the organization of the race. Later that year there were 48 starters at Vincenzo Florio’s race, but only two big manufacturers Ferrari and Porsche competed in the 43rd Targa Florio that would count for the Manufacturers’ Championship. From Maranello there were three V12 Testa Rossa 3-litres, to be driven by Jean Behra/Tony Brooks, Oliver Gendebien/Phil Hill and Cliff Allison/Dan Gurney, while a fourth car was being looked after by the factory, this being the 2-litre V6 Dino 196 for Cabianca and Scarlatti. In addition there were two private Testa Rossa 2-litre four-cylinder cars in the hands of Starrabba/Lo Coco and Cammarata/Tramontana. From Stuttgart came two Porsche RSK models, with the new wishbone rear suspension and fitted with 1,600-c.c. Spyder engines, driven by Umberto Maglioli/Hans Herrmann and Jo Bonnier/Wolfgang von Trips. A third factory car was a normal 1,500-cc for Edgar Barth/Wolfgang Seidel, and to complete the team there was a Carrera GT for Baron Antonio Pucci/Fritz Huschke von Hanstein.

Porsche workshopWork on the Porsche 718 series, derived from the 550A had begun in the winter of 1956 under the direction of Wilhelm Hild, head of the competition department at the time. It featured revised front suspension and braking. Modifications to the spaceframe allowed for a lower front cowling, lighter weight and increased rigidity. After further testing the front suspension reverted back to the 550 design for increased high sped stability. The rear torsion bar was replaced as well. The car was to be Porsche’s first pure race car and would help to create the Porsche sporting legend.

The race would start at 5:00am and end after fourteen laps. As the race progressed the Ferrari team grew ever more frustrated at their inability to catch the smaller and less powerful Porsches. As Behra came down the winding mountain road back towards the sea he lost the big Ferrari on a left-hand bend, went sideways off the road, hit a ditch and rolled completely over, to finish upside-down in a field. The tough Frenchman got out from underneath the wreckage, miraculously unhurt, gathered together a horde of local peasants and rolled the Ferrari back onto its wheels, the car started up and Behra, undaunted drove on! When Behra finally made it back to the pits where the fast but ever careful Tony Brooks took one look at the beat up Ferrari advised that they “throw that heap of junk on the scrap-heap” only to look with mouth agape agape as the ca was being refueled, and he was ordered by race manager, Tavoni to get and go! Brooks added some additional bodywork himself when he slid straight on at one corner and smashed the front end in. Eventually the transmission gave in and the car was put out of it’s misery. Gendebien’s car was ill as well and the Belgian decided that his day might best be spent enjoying the Sicilian countryside. It would be three hours before Gendebien would make it back into the pits. If Schadenfreude has a place in motor racing then Ferrari team was consoled by the retirements of the leading Porsches of Umberto Maglioli/Hans Herrmann and Jo Bonnier/Wolfgang von Trip, allowing the smaller Porsche 718 RSK driven by Edgar Barth, who had emigrated to the West from what was then East Germany only two years earlier, and Wolfgang Seidel through for the win.

Ferrari Testa RossaCliff Allison and I ‘bonded’ almost from the first time we met. He had already joined the Ferrari team before I arrived in the spring of 1959 as the new kid from America. We were about the same age, both with very limited racing experience on the great road racing tracks of Europe. Enzo Ferrari decided that we would be a good pair to share a Testa Rossa V-12 at the Targa Florio, the world’s oldest and most challenging sports car race in the mountains of Sicily.

Targa Florio 1959 - Dan Gurney

I had the dubious honour of driving the team Muletta a Ferrari Mondial practice car, with Cliff alongside me in the passenger seat. We both tried to ‘learn’ the 42 mile long track with its many blind turns, hair-raising downhills and tricky corners – including one named “back to England in a box” by Mike Hawthorn.

Dan Gurney – From the Fells to Ferrari by Graham Gauld

The 44th Targa Florio in 1960 was shaping up to be a battle between the Ferrari and Porsche teams, for both factories were out in full force. The Scuderia Ferrari team consisted of Cliff Allison, Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips, Richie Ginther, Willy Mairesse, Ludovico Scarfiotti and Giulio Cabianca, while also under the factory care were the Mexican brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez. Cabianca was an experienced and reliable sports car driver, having spent most of the fifties driving works OSCA sports cars against more powerful opposition. A number of strong results lead to his occasional inclusion in the works Ferrari sports car squad for 1959 and 60. Two big transporters journeyed down from Maranello, carrying three cars apiece. As related by their engineer Mauro Forghieri, he and several mechanics would travel down in a crammed station wagon as well.

The Porsche team came in vans and trailers with three RS60 Spyders and an older RSK for practice, plus a new Reutter-Carrera fresh off the showroom floor, still with interior trim and floor carpets! The Porsche drivers comprised last year’s winner, Edgar Barth now teamed with Graham Hill, Jo Bonnier, Hans Herrmann, Oliver Gendebien, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Antonio Pucci. Supporting the Porsche team, but running independently, was Paul Strahle and his two Carreras, one a brand new Abarth-bodied car to be driven by himself and Linge and the other his old Reutter-Carrera, which finished fourth last year, to be driven by himself and “Keinz,” another German driver. Lost in the shuffle was the Maserati Tipo 61 driven by Umberto Maglioli and local ace Nino Vaccarella.

1960 Porsche 718 RS60 SpyderOn the Friday before the race the roads were closed for a few hours for official practice, but for the rest of the time the roads were open to the peasants, buses, lorries and tourists, not to mention goats and sheep. As usual the pre-race period took its usual toll of machinery. Most of the damaged cars were repaired by Sunday morning, except for Allison’s Ferrari who was then forced to take over the trainer. The race started at 8:00 am and just over 45 minutes after the first car had started, a rocket exploded behind a neighboring hill to signal that a car had been sighted on the far hill, heading towards the pit area to complete its first lap. Maglioli, Maserati thundered round the bend by the pits in a series of slides, having passed the entire Ferrari team, and was now 23 sec. behind Bonnier’s Porsche. Bonnier continued to build his lead but the switch in drivers with Hermann in the Porsche and Vaccarella in the Maserati proved to be in the latter’s favor and the Maserati was now leading the race. Porsche needed to get Bonnier back in the car which they did at the end of the next lap. On lap eight a stone had punctured the Maserati’s fuel tank, when the engine cut out the car hit a bank and ended it’s race which went to the Porsche 718 RS60 driven by Jo Bonnier and Hans Herrmann. 2nd was Ferrari Dino 246S Spyder of Wolfgang von Trips and American Phil Hill with another Porsche 718 RS60 Olivier Gendebien and the substituting Hans Herrmann coming home in third. Thus the exhausted Hermann came in first AND third. The car also won the Sebring 12 hours and the European Hillclimb Championship that year.

The 718 RS61 would be nearly an identical to the RS60 of the previous year but the engine size would be increased to 2.0-liters giving the car more acceleration. Stirling Moss would remark that the RS 61, ‘with a 2 liter engine that offered enhanced torque, this Porsche was pretty much the perfect car for the Targa Florio.’, well almost. In 1961 race Moss was leading but just five miles from the finish line the differential failed on Moss’ Porsche and the car was done. Von Trips, just caught sight of the Porsche with the yellow nose parked by the side of the road. The Ferrari Dino 246 SP would round the bend and cross the line to take the victory, one of the greatest performances in von Trips’ and Gendebien’s careers. Two Porsche 718 RS61s would come through to finish in 2nd and 3rd place.

The 46th Targa Florio was all set for Porsche and in this instance it’s number one driver Stirling Moss. For 1961, the Porsche’s the engine size would be increased to 2.0-liters giving the car more power and, more importantly, more torque and acceleration. As Stirling Moss would say concerning the RS 61, ‘with a 2 liter engine that offered enhanced torque, this Porsche was pretty much the perfect car for the Targa Florio.’ Stirling Moss was teamed with future World Champion Graham Hill but it would be Moss that would be at the controls first and would take his Porsche 718 RS61 immediately into the lead which he would eventually build up to around a minute and a half before handing over the driver duties to Hill. With Moss driving the majority of the race he headed into the final lap of the race with a lead of more than a minute over von Trips. Moss was within a handful of miles of taking the victory, a victory he would never see. The Porsche, just five miles away from the finish line had its differential fail almost within sight of the finish. The Dino 246 SP would round the last bend and cross the line to take the victory. Von Trips would be followed by two Porsche 718 RS61s in 2nd and 3rd place. Their gap to the Porsche of Bonnier and Gurney would be nearly four and a half minutes. Another twelve minutes would be the difference from Bonnier and Gurney’s Porsche back to the Porsche of Hans Herrmann and Edgar Barth. For 1962 Ferrari sent three different rear-engine models to the Targa Florio. The Dino 246 SP was accompanied by a Dino 196 SP (1.9-liter SOHC V6) and a Dino 268 SP (2.6-liter SOHC V8). Seven additional Ferrari 250 GTs were present as private entries. The Porsche factory cars were entered by the Italian team Scuderia SSS Republica di Venezia (aka Scuderia Serenissima). In addition to the factory 718s, Scuderia Serenissima also entered two Porsche-Abarth GTLs and a Maserati Tipo 64. Willy Mairesse, Ricardo Rodriguez and Olivier Gendebien took the win driving the Ferrari Dino 246 SP.

The 47th Targa Florio in Sicily took place on 5 May 1963 and was the fourth championship round of the World Sportscar Championship this year. Ferrari brought four cars as did Porsche, and both were backed by a gaggle of privateers.

Ferrari Dino 196SPThe morning of the race 55 starters were being lined up in order of engine capacity (small to large), ready to be sent away at 30-sec. intervals, and at 8:00 am and after the usual bit of chaos the Targa Florio was under way. Before the end of the first lap Jo Bonnier’s Porsche 718 GTR had already passed Umberto Maglioli in the open version of the same car. Future F1 World Champion John Surtees was able to assume the lead but on the 5th lap he went off the road and split his Ferrari’s fuel tank ending his race. The race was now between the Porsche of Bonnier and the Ferrari Dino 196 SP of Lorenzo Bandini along with their supporting cast.

1963 Targa FlorioJust before the end of the race, a heavy thunderstorm came down a few kilometers before the finish line and the excitable Willy Mairesse, who’s Ferrari was leading at the time crashed into a wall, with the engine cover loosening from the Ferrari’s body. Mairesse, heartbroken continued as best he could with the rear deck being dragged behind his car as he crossed the finish line, only to have been caught and passed by the Porsche of Abate giving the victory to the Joakim Bonnier and Carlo-Maria Abate Porsche 718 GTR by only 12 seconds. Third was a Porsche 356B 2000 GS driven by Edgar Barth and Herbert Linge. Only 28 of the 55 starters survived to see the end of the race.

The 48th Targa Florio in 1964 the Ferrari team skipped the race when Enzo Ferrari decided that the outcome of the Le Mans 24-hour race in June was going to be more important to his sales of GT cars than a win in Sicily. In addition, his Grand Prix car-building programme was falling behind the competition, and with Monaco and Zandvoort followed by the race at Nurburgring in the near future his workshops were going to be busy enough without the added work of repairing the cars that would inevitably be damaged during the Sicilian race.

To take the Italian team’s place came the American Cobras who after the races at Daytona and Sebring were leading the GT Manufacturers’ Championship. This encouraged the Texan, Carroll Shelby to bring over a four-car team to do battle with the rough mountain roads. The American would face another obstacle, the factory Porsche team.

Shelby Cobra 289At the start of the race it was Bonnier leading overall, in the open 8-cylinder Porsche, followed by second works Porsche, and then came Gurney leading the Cobra attack. Bonnier’s lead did not last long for half-way round the second lap a driveshaft coupling broke and he was stranded out in the mountains at the Bivio Polizzi refueling depot. At the end of the third lap both Gurney and Phil Hill, also in a thirsty Cobra made pit stops fuel and tires, being passed by two Porsches. The leading Porsche of Maglioli had a spring unit break and this spun him into a wall, damaging the left front corner of the car. He was able to limp round to the pits, but this dropped him from first place to sixth. Colin Davis, at the end of lap six had over 5 min. lead on Gurney, who was back in his Cobra and still driving hard, but he could not make up for the time lost while in the pits. On the ninth lap the Cobra team’s radio station reported that Gurney was out, his rear suspension having broken, so the pits staff began packing up, but Gurney had not given in and he appeared some time later. Finding his pit deserted, he set off on the last lap with his rear wheels pointing in different directions!The best of the American cars was the Dan Gurney/Gerry Grant Shelby Cobra 289 roadster that came in 8th in a race won by a Porsche 904 driven by Baron Antonio Pucci of Palermo and Colin Davis. Balzarini/Linge Porsche 904 GTS finished 2nd and third was a Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ driven by Bussinello/Todaro.

Local hero, Nino Vaccarella was born on March 4, 1933 in Palermo, Italy, and spent his childhood in a town near the route of the famed Targa Florio open-road race.

This piqued his interest in motorsport, and in 1956 he entered a Fiat 1100 in a local hillclimb. He finished fifth in class and was hooked, soon upgrading to a Lancia Aurelia 2500 and, in 1959, a Maserati Birdcage. Vaccarella was never a full-time racer and to earn a living he worked as a school teacher at a nearby school that he had established. According to driver Vic Elford, “he knew the roads on Sicily like the back of his hand”, in fact by his own admission he used to practice for a month or two in his own car prior to each race. His first attempt at the Targa Florio came in 1957 when he came in 109th. He came in 10th in 1959 partnering with Giuseppe Alotta. 1960 when he was teamed with two-time winner Umberto Maglioli in a birdcage Maserati. They took the lead early and maintained it for three laps, but then broke down. Vaccarella would later follow his 1964 victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with winning the Targa Florio race in 1965. Later repeating in 1971 and again in 1975, when it was no longer a World Sportscar Championship event. He also drove the big V12-powered Ferrari 512S in a heroic yet ultimately losing effort in 1970, damaging the car in the final stages.

“I have always been associated with the Targa, and my first win there was the most important for Sicily, but my preference was always for the more powerful cars on the high-speed tracks like Le Mans, Daytona and the Nürburgring.” – Nino Vaccarella

The 49th Targa Florio was held on the 9th of May and on race day there were 59 cars ready for the 8:00 am start Of these there were 4 four Ferrari 275LMs in a special national GT class plus three 275P/2 works Ferraris for Vaccarella/Bandini, Scarfiotti/Parkes and Guichet/Baghetti plus a competition Ferrari GTB driven by Biscaldi/Deserti. The three works Porsches, were various versions of their 914 to be driven by Bonnier/Graham Hill, Maglioli/Linge, and Colin Davis/Mitter.

Ford GT40There was a lone entry of a Ford GT Prototype, this being the open cockpit car that first appeared at the Le Mans test-weekend, with 4.7-litre “iron” Ford V8 engine and 5-speed ZF gearbox, painted a strange shade of green. The drivers were Sir John Whitmore and Bob Bondurant, a pair who would prove well suited to the Targa Florio always up among the leaders the entire race until Bondurant spun the Ford on some gravel , bounced off a wall, struck a water trough and torn a front wheel and suspension off, up in the hills above Cerda.

1965 Ferrari 275P2, Targa Florio, Parkes/ScarfiottiIn the early going Vaccarella was leading from Scarfiotti by 9 sec. and, in spite of only seven cylinders working, Bondurant was third, and De Adamich was fourth in the works-supported Ferrari LM coupe. At the end of the third lap many of the cars stopped to refuel and change drivers, with Bandini taking over for Vaccarella, and Graham Hill for Bonnier who was delayed by throttle cable trouble, which meant that Hill took over with a big handicap . Scarfiotti who was due in went off the road and bent the steering on his Ferrari. The sun got hotter and hotter and as mid-day approached food and drink began to appear among the keener spectators, while others returned to their homes for lunch with the sounds of race cars reverberating against the village walls. The race was won by the Ferrari 275 P2 driven by Nino Vaccarella/Lorenzo Bandini. They were followed by an awful looking but effective Porsche 904 Bergspyder driven by Colin Davis/Gerhard Mitter in 2nd and a Porsche 904 driven by Umberto Maglioli/Herbert Linge in 3rd.

On the 8th of May, 1966 the race was run in treacherously wet conditions such that the favorites – works-entered Ferraris and Porsches – failed to make it to the end, allowing the Swiss-entered Porsche 906 crewed by Willy Mairesse and Herbert Muller to win the 50th Targa Florio. Ecurie Filipinetti was a Swiss motor racing team that competed in sports car racing and occasionally in Formula One between 1962 and 1973. It was founded by Georges Filipinetti originally to support Swiss driver Jo Siffert, but employed many other drivers including Jim Clark, Phil Hill and Ronnie Peterson. They were followed home by the Ferrari Dino 206S driver by Jean Guichet and Giancarlo Baghetti. The 51st Targa Florio held on May 14th, 1967 saw Ferrari’s single entry of a 4-liter 330P4 for Nino Vaccarella and Lodovico Scarfiotti was out on the very first lap when Vaccarella hit a wall, and ultimately the race developed into another Porsche benefit, the German cars taking the first three places led by the 2.2-liter 910/8 of Australian Paul Hawkins and Rolf Stommelen. Swiss Herbert Muller, at the wheel of a 4-liter Ferrari 365P3/4, set best lap of 37 minutes 9.0 seconds, at 72.25 mph.

Vic ElfordMaking an appearance, seemingly from another planet was the 7-liter Chevrolet-engined Chaparral 2F. The winged coupe, driven by Americans Phil Hill and Hap Sharp, was not suited for the roads in Sicily but a crowd favorite was in fourth place when its transmission failed on lap nine.

TarAt the 52nd Targa Florio held on May 5th, 1968 things were looking good for Vic Elford and his Porsche 907 when disaster struck. On the climb into the mountains after Cerda, Elford suddenly felt no drive to the rear wheels. Fearing that the driveshaft or his clutch had broken he climbed out to have a look. Instead he saw that a bad center-lock wheel nut on his Porsche 907 had in fact unscrewed itself with the wheel almost coming off. Before he could even reach for his jack, spectators had swarmed over to his car and lifted it off the ground! He tightened the nut and set off again, only to have the nut come loose again. This time, he slid into the curb and suffered a flat tire. The obliging crowd lifted the car up and he changed to the space saver, limped the car back to the pits and changed all of wheels and nuts. It was only lap two of 10, and he was 18 minutes behind. With nothing to lose he drove flat out for the rest of the race. He drove seven of those 10 laps with partner Umberto Maglioli driving the remainder. He took the lead on lap nine. Nobody knew whether the 907 would survive the pressure, but it did. This was the 3rd and last win at the Targa Florio for Maglioli. Following the Elford/Maglioli car were the Alfa Romeos of Ignazio Giunti/Nanni Galli and Lucien Bianchi/Mario Casoni.

In a rare moment of appreciation, Porsche changed its policy of only featuring its cars on its victory posters, and this one time the poster was of the driver who beat all the odds. “I would never have managed that without the help of the locals.” – Vic Elford

Targa FlorioThe 53rd Targa Florio held on May 4th, 1969 race saw no Ferraris, a single Alfa Romeo for Vaccarella/de Adamich and six Porsches for Mitter/Schutz, Redman/Attwood, Herrmann/Stommelen, and last year’s winners, Elford/Maglioli. The two German drivers, Karl von Wendt and Willi Kaushen were given the fifth 908 and the sixth was driven by Larousse, and Rudi Lins an Austrian Porsche privateer. As was expected the race was dominated by Porsche who scored a 1-2-3-4 with Germans Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schütz taking the honors. All the top four Porsches were 908/02K Spyders and in addition two 907s placed 6th and 7th. Tragically Gerhard Mitter died in practice for the that year’s German Grand Prix, Schütz, shaken by his friends death skipped the final endurance round in Zeltweg and retired, turning down Ferrari who were looking for experienced drivers for their Ferrari 512S multi-car effort in 1970.

In 1970 the Porsches carried an inflated Goodrich lightweight spare tyre in a compartment on the right of the engine with an enormous quick-action lever jack strapped to the rear cross-tube of the chassis. By comparison with the Porsches the single 5-litre Ferrari 512 entered for Vaccarella/Giunti seemed enormous. Alfa Romeo had three of their T 33-3 cars, with 3-litre V8 engines to be driven by Courage/de Adamich, Maglioli/Galli and Gregory/Hezemans, with a fourth car as a spare and practice car, as well as a bunch of GTA coupés for the drivers to use for open-road practice.

The 54th Targa Florio was due to be run on Sunday. May 3rd, and normally official practice would have taken place on the previous Friday, but that was May 1st, which is Labor Day in Italy and a national holiday, so practice was held on Thursday under perfect conditions. But then the rains came on the weekend and it even snowed in the mountains. The race was lengthened to 11 laps for a total of 792 kilometres, and was due to start at 8 a.m. The race finally got of a little after 9:00 am but the road conditions were bad. Elford in a Porsche dodged a rock lying in the road and in doing so hit a kerb and damaged his car before losing control on the next corner crashing the car and having to sit with the wreckage for the rest of the day a bare 12 kilometres from the start. Next to lose control was another top driver, Maglioli who lost control of his Tipo 33-3 Alfa Romeo on the slippery surface and went off the road. The course seemed well suited for the the rally drivers Larrousse and Kinnunen and so that the order at the end of lap 1 was Larrousse. Siffert and Kinnunen, followed by van Lennep, Courage, Hezemans and then Vaccarella.

1970 Porsche 908/3The sun was now shining strongly and the mud turned to dust but still the conditions on the second lap were vastly improved. As Siffert began his second lap, his co-driver, Redman, signaled to him that Elford was out of the race, and the Swiss figuring that his Porsche teammate would be his stiffest competition relaxed himself into fifth position. The Porsche team were not giving their drivers any positive signals, being content for any Porsche to be in the lead but also wanting each driver to run at their own pace. Even with Elford and Maglioli out of the race there remained a strong filed of drivers and the battle was really on between the teams. Finally the dust settled with Jo Siffert and Brian Redman winning in a Porsche 908/3.

Alfa Romeo had withdrawn from sports car racing in 1953 but eleven years later, in 1964 they founded a new subsidiary, Autodelta, to organize their return to racing. In 1971 Alfa Romeo came with four new Alfa Tipo 33/3s including a special lightweight TT or Telaio Tubulare that was withdrawn at the last minute. Porsche would race three of their lightweight 908/3s. Ferrari would skip the race with their team manager, Mauro Forghieri, complaining that even for the cars that finished the brutal race, “70% of the car was scrap”. The Porsches were 80 hp down on the Alfas but 60 kg lighter. The number of entries approached 120 but by the start of the race dwindled to around 74 by 9:00am on Sunday morning, the 16th of May. The drivers were greet by cloudless skies under a blazing hot sun. Vaccarella was sent off first after setting the fastest practice time, which had been held on the previous Thursday.

During the 55th Targa Florio disaster struck early for the two JW-Gulf Porsches which had both crashed on the the first lap. The Brian Redman JW Porsche caught fire and burnt out completely, and Redman was lucky to get away with serious burns to the face and neck. and Pedro Rodriguez crashed the second JW Porsche in Collesano, while the third Porsche sponsored by Martini and driven by Gérard Larrousse had taken the early lead over Vaccarella’s Alfa. On lap 3 Alain de Cadenet had a serious accident while driving a Lola T212 and was out of the race.

My favourite race was the Targa Florio. I only did it twice, and I was nearly killed the second time. I was in a Lola prototype, and I think I had a wheel come off. Something hit me on the head, I was knocked unconscious and the car spun down the road, hit a barrier and caught fire. I thought I had been thrown out prior to being rescued, but I hadn’t. I came to a halt in front of a Sicilian soldier who fought with the Germans against the Russians in World War Two. He jumped in and pulled me out – he saved my life. I didn’t know that until two years ago, when I was in Sicily filming our new Targa Florio film, A Sicilian Dream, and I met his family. – Alain de Cadenet

Around the sixth lap Larrousse suffered a puncture and limped into the pit only to roar back into the race without it’s driver. Larrousse having forgotten to handoff to his co-driver, Vic Elford! All came to grief when the Porsche struck a curb and broke its front suspension. The two remaining Alfas were now leading and Alfa Romeo was once again on the top step of the podium after twenty-one years with Nino Vaccarella and Dutch touring and prototype racing car driver Toine Hezemans sharing the win. The Porsche stronghold on the Targa Florio had been broken for the first time since 1965

Targa Florio

For 1972 the works support Porsche teams skipped the 56th Targa Floria, turning their focus to the United States, a much larger market for the German cars than Italy. Ferrari returned to the Targa with a single 312P to be driven by Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari. Alfa Romeo was in Sicily in full force with 33/3 cars for Vaccarella, Ralf Stommelen, Gijs Van Lennep, De Adamich, Hezemans, Galli, Marko and Elford. The Autodelta team of Alfa Romeo put everything they had into this year’s event, this was the race that mattered, even to the extent of missing the 1,000-kilometre races at Monza and Spa-Francorchamps, in order to concentrate on training and testing for the Sicilian classic.

1972 Targa Florio - Ferrari 312PBIn the race which started on the 21st of May, Elford took the early lead under clear skies, building upon an early lead upon reaching Campofelice when water started splashing upon his visor. At first Elford looked forward to the cooling rain when he realized the water was instead coming from a hole in his engine block forcing him to retire then and there. Merzario then took the lead followed by Vaccarella. Helmut Marko, who had become a doctor of law in 1967 called the race, totally insane, vowing never to return, yet picked up the fight when Vaccarella’s engine failed. Marko was able to overtake the Ferrari, setting the fastest lap of 33 minutes and 41 second at an average speed of 128.253 km/h, a record that still stands. In a move that was later unfairly criticized, Galli replaced the flying Marko only to lose the lead when he spun and lost over a minute. Later it was learned that he spun to avoid crashing into a Lancia. When Galli finally got back to the pits he was replaced by Marko who was now far behind the Ferrari which had also switched drivers with Arturo Merzario now driving. With Merzario suffering from stomach cramps and Marko driving like a demon the Alfa was fast catching the Ferrari. Merzario was able to gather himself and increase his speed just enough to win by 17 seconds, while Marko finished a hard charging second. The Ferrari 312PB was Ferrari’s last sports prototype before they exited sports car racing to focus their efforts solely on Formula One. A sister Alfa came in third driven by Andrea de Adamich/Toine Hezemans.

Before the 57th Targa Florio scheduled for the 13th of May, 1973, the FIA announced that the Targa Florio would lose its championship status the following year. The race was now considered unsuited to the modern sports-prototypes of the 1970s, but actually as shown by the Porsche 908s special built cars could be very competitive if a manufacturer wished to spend the required funds a modern sports-prototype could surly be build however it suitability to the other sports car endurance events on the calendar may prove suspect.

Porsche Carrera RSRFor what may have been the last, true Targa Florio there were 76 starters perhaps sensing that thIs may be their last chance at glory. Alfa Romeo had two T33/TT Flat-12s for Rolf Stommelen/Andrea de Adamich and Clay Regazzoni/Carlo Facetti while Ferrari entered two cars for Arturo Merzario/Nino Vaccarella and Brian Redman/Jacky Ickx to the delight of the 700,000 Sicilians in attendance. One Alfa Romeo never made it out of practice after Regazzoni somersaulted the second TT33/12 down a mountainside and landing upside down in a field. Miraculously Regazzoni was able to walk away from the completely destroyed car. Stommelen grabbed the early lead and when pitting on the third lap was told that both Ferraris were out. Ickx hit a stone and left the road damaging a wheel while Merzario was stranded with gearbox trouble. de Adamich took over the leading Alfa who’s race ended while attempting to pass one of the Lancia Fulvia, being sideswiped and forced off the road, leaving the victory to a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR driven by Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Muller. van Lennep, a member of the Dutch nobility was the second Dutchman to win the race. They were followed by a Lancia Stratos, delayed by several stops to attend to a broken seat but driven by Sandro Munari/Jean-Claude Andruet for 2nd and another Porsche Carrera RSR driven by Leo Kinnunen/Claude Haldi for 3rd. SICA11f Alfa Romeo 33/3 #5 Targa Florio 1971The Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Sport Prototype was designed in the mid 1960s to race in the World Sports Car Championship. Eventually it succeeded and won the Manufacturers’ Championship in 1975, and again in 1977. Designed by Carlo Chiti, a famous Italian engineer, the several variants of the car were raced by the Alfa factory and by many privateers as well. After the initial victories in the 2-litres Prototype category, the ‘T33/3’ version made its debut in 1969 and gained its best results in the 1971 World Championship: the Auto delta ‘open’ Prototypes won the overall ranking at Brands Hatch, Watkins Glen and the Targa Florio, being even faster than the 5-litres ‘Sport’ cars. The ‘T33/3’ cars featured a monocoque chassis, paneled in aluminum and magnesium, a V8 2998 cc engine, and a 6 or 5 speed gearbox. Top speed reached 330 km/h, at Le Mans with long tail. In 1971, the most important victory was at the Targa Florio, with two ‘T33/3’s finishing first and second. The race was won by Nino Vaccarella and Toine Hezemans.

The race would continue another 4 years as a national event until a fatal accident involving two spectators and injuries to five others including the driver finally brought an end to out and out racing. The fact that it outlived it’s famous cousin the Mille Miglia by twenty year is a testament to it’s local support. The Targa had by then become name forever linked to the racing history of Porsche as well as that of its road cars, a total of eleven victories saw to that. In an attempt to save the Targa Florio, the race organizers proposed a permanent closed circuit to be built in Madonie. It was described as 6.6 km long with 12 curves that would “concentrate the difficulties of the glorious, 72-kilometer Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie on a reduced scale.” It was not a well received idea. David Owen in Automobile Quarterly, declared, “If we must lose the Targa Florio, then let us do it gracefully, and not reduce it to some comparatively minor closed circuit event with the same name, as some have suggested.”

Targa Florio Winners

Year Winning Drivers Winning Car
1937 Giulio Severi Maserati 6CM
1938 Giovanni Rocco Maserati 6CM
1939 Luigi Villoresi Maserati 6CM
1940 Luigi Villoresi Maserati 4CL
1948 Clemente Biondetti/Aldo Benedetti Ferrari 166
1949 Clemente Biondetti/Aldo Benedetti Ferrari 166 SC
1950 Mario Bornigia/Giancarlo Bornigia
Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione
1951 Franco Cortese Frazer Nash
1952 Felice Bonetto Lancia Aurelia B20
1953 Umberto Maglioli Lancia D20 3000
1954 Piero Taruffi Lancia D 24
1955 Stirling Moss/Peter Collins
Mercedes-Benz 300SLR
1956 Umberto Maglioli/Huschke von Hanstein Porsche 550
1957 Fabio Colona
1958 Luigi Musso/Olivier Gendebien Ferrari 250TR
1959 Edgar Barth/Wolfgang Seidel Porsche 718 RSK
1960 Jo Bonnier/Hans Herrmann/Graham Hill Porsche 718 RS60
1961 Wolfgang von Trips/Olivier Gendebien Ferrari Dino 246SP
1962 Willy Mairesse/Ricardo Rodriguez/Olivier Gendebien Ferrari Dino 246SP
1963 Jo Bonnier/ Carlo Maria Abate Porsche 718 RS64
1964 Colin Davis/Antonio Pucci Porsche 904 GTS
1965 Nino Vaccarella/Lorenzo Bandini Ferrari 275 P2
1966 Willy Mairesse/Herbert Müller Porsche 906 Carrera 6
1967 Paul Hawkins/Rolf Stommelen Porsche 910
1968 Vic Elford/Umberto Maglioli Porsche 907
1969 Gerhard Mitter/Udo Schütz Porsche 908/2
1970 Jo Siffert/Brian Redman Porsche 908 /3
1971 Nino Vaccarella/Toine Hezemans Alfa Romeo 33/3
1972 Arturo Merzario/Sandro Munari Ferrari 312PB
1973 Herbert Müller/Gijs van Lennep
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR
1974 Gérard Larrousse/Amilcare Allestrieri Lancia Stratos
1975 Nino Vaccarella/Arturo Merzario Alfa Romeo 33 TT 12
1976 Armando Floridia Osella
1977 Raffaele Restivo Chevron