Photo credit: Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsche, Wheelsage
At the dawn of the 20th century, among the earliest motor races in history, there was one that became part of the history of motorsport: the Targa Florio. The name originates from the bronze plaque awarded to the winner, designed by the Florio family who conceived the race. The plaque features a herd of horses and a driver behind the wheel of a sports car.
Among the great drivers who participated in the Targa Florio there was also a young Enzo Ferrari, who achieved a second place in 1920 as his best result. Pictured here at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo in 1922.
The race takes place on public roads in Sicily, navigating its way through the challenging terrain of the Madonie mountains before descending towards the sea, where the course has its only real straight section. Over its 61 editions, interrupted only by the two World Wars, the circuit underwent five changes, with lengths varying between 72 and 148.823 km. In some years, even the Giro di Sicilia race took on the name of Targa Florio.
Tazio Nuvolari behind the wheel of Scuderia Ferrari's Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 winning the 1932 edition of the Targa Florio.
When it comes to the hall of fame, three drivers are tied with three wins each: Umberto Maggioli, Nino Vaccarella, and Olivier Gendebien. Porsche leads the list of most successful manufacturers with 11 wins, followed closely by Alfa Romeo with 10 and Ferrari with 7.
The 1955 edition of the Targa Florio was conquered by Stirling Moss and Peter Collins in the Mercedes 300 SLR after the victory a few months earlier at the Mille Miglia.
The race, which was part of the World Sportscar Championship for many years, gained fame for the many difficulties along the route caused by the circuit's length, narrow roads that passed through towns and villages, and the enthusiastic crowds from start to finish.
Nino Vaccarella is one of the most successful drivers at the Targa Florio with 3 victories. Pictured here with the Ferrari 275 P2 he will win together with Lorenzo Bandini the 1965 edition.
Due to the hazardous nature of the course and growing concerns about the safety of road racing, the legend of the Targa Florio became a nostalgic memory by 1977. However, it had survived for 20 years longer than the Mille Miglia, which was cancelled in 1957.
Porsche is the most successful manufacturer at the Targa Florio with 11 wins. Here in picture the 911 Carrera RSR driven by Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Müller that took the overall victory in 1973.
And today? Just a few days ago, the Targa Florio Classica 2023 concluded, an event that allows enthusiasts to relive the history and culture of the sportscars that once crossed the Sicilian roads. Interestingly, despite the transformation from a speed race to a regularity event, the original numbering system has been maintained to indicate the number of races, reaching its 100th edition in 2016.
The Targa Florio still lives on today transformed into a regularity race.
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER