This race was the brainchild of the wealthy race driver and automobile enthusiast, Vincenzo Florio, who in 1906 created the first race run over 3 laps equaling 277 miles over the most treacherous mountain roads on Sicily, Italy.
Alessandro Cagno won the inaugural race in 9 hours and with an average speed of 30 mph.
Over the years, the race length was repeatedly altered, the track had many hundreds of curves and bends over the unclosed public roads with sheer cliffs and very little means to prevent cars and driver disappearing over the edge.
Neither were there any safeguard provisions for the many daredevil spectators, perched on the outside of corners, cheering on their heroes literally inches away from the speeding cars.
As the years progressed, so did the cars’ power and speed – one driver calling the race, “totally insane”, and during the 1977 event, the police forcibly stopped the race.
The Targa Florio race still exists, but on a completely different level. With the variations of track lengths used, the fastest lap times ever set on these treacherous public roads were just under 80mph average !
In 1988, after one of my images of Gilles Villeneuve had been featured in Enzo Ferrari’s book, “Pilote Che Gente”, Mr. Ferrari presented me with a signed copy of his book.
As a direct result, a year later, a publisher and I both visited Ferrari in Maranello for a fine art project, our meeting with the legendary Dr. Franco Gozzi and our lunch at the equally famous ‘Cavallino’ restaurant would cement that purest of Ferrari magic.
My publisher also challenged me to depict a historical racing scene which would combine my usual realistic technical representation with an equally realistic background atmosphere. Without any hesitation I chose the Targa. I also chose to paint one of Mexico’s most fearless drivers – the 18 year old Ricardo Rodriguez who, along with his equally fearless older brother, Pedro, were signed up to drive a Ferrari 196S for the North American Racing Team (NART)
My image shows the extremities that all drivers would have to endure – both in weather and of geographical nature – and in the fullest of knowledge that the seemingly sturdy stone built walls would easily yield to the might of a race car – none of which deterred the exceptionally brave Rodriguez brothers.
This particular image also appeared in a subsequential version of the same book.
Title: “TARGA SPLENDOR”
Medium: Enamel paint on canvas. Size” 24″ x 30″ x 1″ under wooden frame Value: $14,500.