Targa Florio

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Targa Florio
CountryTour of Island of Sicily, Italy
Inaugural season1906
Last Drivers' championItaly Raffaele Restivo,
Italy Alfonso Merendino
Last Constructors' championUnited Kingdom  Chevron B36 BMW
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Targa Florio
CountryTour of Island of Sicily, Italy
Inaugural season1906
Last Drivers' championItaly Raffaele Restivo,
Italy Alfonso Merendino
Last Constructors' championUnited Kingdom  Chevron B36 BMW
Alessandro Cagno (1883-1971), winner of first Targa Florio in 1906. Pictured at 1907 event.

The Targa Florio was an open road endurance automobile race held in the mountains of Sicily near Palermo. Founded in 1906, it was the oldest sports car racing event, part of the World Sportscar Championship between 1955 and 1973. While the first races consisted of a whole tour of the island, the track length in the race's last decades was limited to the 72 kilometres (45 mi) of the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie, which was lapped 11 times.

After 1973, it was a national sports car event until it was discontinued in 1977 due to safety concerns. It has since been run as a rallying event, and is part of the Italian Rally Championship.


Vincenzo Trucco, winner of the 1908 Targa Florio driving an Isotta Fraschini
Vincenzo Lancia driving a Fiat 50 hp in 1908 Targa Florio, finished 2nd.

The race was created in 1906 by the wealthy pioneer race driver and automobile enthusiast, Vincenzo Florio, who had started the Coppa Florio race in Brescia, Lombardy in 1900.

One of the toughest competitions in Europe, the first Targa Florio covered 3 laps equalling 277 miles (446 km) through multiple hairpin curves on treacherous mountain roads, at heights where severe changes in climate frequently occurred. Alessandro Cagno won the inaugural 1906 race in nine hours, averaging 30 miles per hour (50 km/h).

By the mid-1920s, the Targa Florio had become one of Europe's most important races, as neither the 24 Hours of Le Mans nor the Mille Miglia had been established yet. Grand Prix races were still isolated events, not a series like today's F1.

The wins of Mercedes (not yet merged with Benz) in the 1920s made a big impression in Germany, especially that of German Christian Werner in 1924, as he was the first non-Italian winner since 1920. Rudolf Caracciola repeated a similar upset win at the Mille Miglia a couple of years later. In 1926, Eliska Junkova, one of the great female drivers in Grand Prix motor racing history, became the first woman to ever compete in the race.

In 1953, the FIA World Sportscar Championship was introduced. The Targa became part of it in 1955, when Mercedes had to win 1-2 with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR in order to beat Ferrari for the title. They had missed the first two of the 6 events, Buenos Aires and the 12 Hours of Sebring, where Ferrari, Jaguar, Maserati and Porsche scored. Mercedes appeared at and won in the Mille Miglia, then pulled out of Le Mans as a sign of respect for the victims of the 1955 Le Mans disaster, but won the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod. Stirling Moss/Peter Collins and Juan Manuel Fangio/Karl Kling finished minutes ahead of the best Ferrari and secured the title.

Course variants[edit]

The 148 km (92 mi) course from 1906-1911 and 1931
The 72 km (45 mi) course from 1932-1936 and 1951-1977

Several versions of the track were used. It started with a single lap of a 148 km (92 mi) circuit from 1906-1911 and 1931. From 1912 to 1914 a tour around the perimeter of Sicily was used, with a single lap of 975 kilometres (606 mi), lengthened to 1,080 kilometres (670 mi) from 1948 to 1950. The 148 km "Grande" circuit was then shortened twice, the first time to 108 km (67 mi), the version used from 1919-1930, and then to the 72 km (45 mi) circuit used from 1932 to 1936 and 1951 to 1977. From 1951-1958, the long coastal island tour variant was used for a separate event called the Giro di Sicilia (Lap of Sicily).

The start and finish took place at Cerda. The counter-clockwise lap lead from Caltavuturo and Collesano from an altitude over 600 metres (1,970 ft) down to sea level, where the cars raced from Campofelice di Roccella on the Buonfornello straight along the coast, a straight over 6 km (3.7 mi) longer than the Mulsanne Straight at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans. The longest version of the circuit went south through Caltavuturo (whereas the shortest version of the open-road circuit went east just before entry into Caltavuturo, through a mountainous section directly to Collesano) through an extended route through elevation changes, and swept through the nearby towns of Castellana and Sottana, twisting around mountains up to the town of Castelbuono and rejoined the most recent version of the track at Collesano. The second version of the track also went south through Caltavuturo and took a shortcut starting right before Castellana to Collesano via the town of Polizzi Generosa. There was a closed circuit called Favorita Park used from 1937-1940.

The challenge of the Targa was unprecedented in its difficulty and the driving experience of any of the course variants was unlike any other circuit in the world other than perhaps that of the Nurburgring in Germany. The original Grande 148 km (92 mi) circuit had in the realm of 2,000 corners per lap, the 108 km (67 mi) Medio had about 1,300-1,400 corners per lap and the final iteration of the course, the 72 km (45 mi) Piccolo circuit had about 800-900 corners per lap. To put that in perspective, most purpose built circuits have between 12 to 18 corners, and the longest purpose built circuit in the world, the 13-mile Nurburgring, has about 180 corners. So learning any of the Targa Florio courses was extremely difficult and required, like most long circuits, at least 60 laps to learn the course- and unlike the purpose-built Nurburgring, the course had to be learned properly in public traffic, and one lap would take about an hour to do in a road car- if there was little to no traffic.

Lap speeds[edit]

Like a rally event (and the Isle of Man TT), the race cars were started one by one every 15 seconds for a time trial, as a start from a full grid was not possible on the tight and twisty roads.

Helmut Marko set the lap record in 1972 in an Alfa Romeo 33TT3 at 33 min 41 s at an average of 128.253 km/h (79.693 mph) during an epic charge where he made up 2 minutes on Arturo Merzario and his Ferrari 312PB.[1] The fastest ever was Leo Kinnunen in 1970, lapping in the Porsche 908/3 at 128.571 km/h (79.890 mph) or 33 min 36 seconds flat.[2]

Due to the track's length, drivers practised in the week before the race in public traffic, often with their race cars fitted with license plates. Porsche factory drivers even had to watch onboard videos, a sickening experience for some. The lap record for the 146 km "Grande" circuit was 2 hours 3 min 54.8 seconds set by Achille Varzi in a Bugatti Type 51 at the 1931 race at an average speed of 70.7 km/h (43.931 mph).[3] The lap record for the 108 km "Medio" circuit was 1 hour 21 min 21.6 seconds set by Varzi in an Alfa Romeo P2 at an average speed of 79.642 km/h (49.487 mph) at the 1930 race.[4] The fastest completion around the short version of the island tour was done by Giovanni "Ernesto" Ceirano in a SCAT at the 1914 race, completed in 16 hours, 51 minutes and 31.6 seconds from May 24–25, 1914.[5] The fastest completion of the long version of the island tour was by Mario and Franco Bornigia in an Alfa Romeo 8C 2500, completed in 12 hours, 26 minutes and 33 seconds flat at the 1950 race at an average speed of 86.794 km/h (53.931 mph).[6]

1970s, Safety and demise[edit]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, race cars with up to 600 hp (450 kW) such as Nino Vaccarella's Ferrari 512S raced through small mountain villages while spectators sat or stood right next to, or even on, the road. Porsche, on the other hand, did not race its big Porsche 917, but rather the nimble Porsche 908/03 Spyders.

Due to safety concerns, especially by Helmut Marko, who called the race "totally insane", the last Targa Florio as a World Sportscar Championship race was run in 1973; where during this event it became impossible to retain its international status after a number of horrendous and 2 fatal accidents at the event; one which privateer Charles Blyth crashed his Lancia Fulvia HF into a trailer at the end of the Buonfornello straight and was killed; and another where an Italian driver crashed his Alpine-Renault into a group of spectators, killing one. There were several other accidents during practice for the 1973 event in which a total of seven spectators sustained injuries. In that year, even a Porsche 911 won as the prototypes such as Jacky Ickx's Ferrari suffered crashes or other troubles. Another reason for the Targa's international demise was because international automotive governing body, the FIA, mandated safety walls on all circuits that were going to hold FIA-mandated events; and the 44-mile length of combined public roads made this simply impossible and totally impractical, especially from a financial standpoint. The Targa was continued as a national event for some years, before a crash in 1977 which killed 2 spectators and seriously injured 5 others (including the driver) sealed its fate. The 1977 race was forcibly taken over by local police and was stopped on the 4th lap, and it also saw 2 other drivers having serious accidents; one of them was critically injured, but survived.

Although the Targa Florio was a rally-type race that took place on closed-off Sicilian public mountain roads with (aside from straw bales and weak guardrails at some of the turns, the latter were installed by the island's government) practically no safety features, only 9 people- including spectators- died at the event over the 71 year and 61 race history using a total of 6 circuit configurations. This amount is relatively small compared to other open road races, like the Mille Miglia, where over a period of 30 years and 24 races, 56 people lost their lives and the Carrera Panamericana, where over a period of 5 years and 5 races, 25 people were killed. This is probably due to the fact that the mountain roads were extremely twisty and average speeds never reached even 80 mph even up to the final years of the race's history, even with the very long straight at the northernmost of the track.


After winning the race several times, Porsche named the convertible version of the 911 after the Targa. The name targa means plaque or plate, see targa top.

The Australian-made Leyland P76 had a special version named Targa Florio named to commemorate victory by journalist-rallyist Evan Green on a Special Stage of the 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally which was held on the Targa Florio course.[7]

Since 1992 the event has lent its name to a modern recreation, staged half-a-world away in the form of the famous road rally Targa Tasmania held on the island state of Tasmania, off the Southern coast of Australia. There are also the Targa New Zealand since 1995, and the Targa Newfoundland since 2002.



A selection of race winners
Jean Porporato finishing fourth at the 1908 race with Berliet
Alfa Romeo RL TF - winner in 1923. 
Albert Divo at the 1929 Targa Florio with Bugatti Type 35C. 
Alfa Romeo 8C winner in 1931, 1932 et 1933. 
Maserati 6CM - winner in 1937-1939 
Ferrari 166MM Barchetta, similar to 1948 winner driven by Clemente Biondetti and Igor Troubetzkoy 
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR similar to the 1955 winner driven by Stirling Moss and Peter Collins 
Porsche 904 similar to 1964 winner of Colin Davis and Antonio Pucci 
Porsche 908/3 similar to the one driven by Jo Siffert and Brian Redman in 1970 
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR driven by Herbert Müller et Gijs van Lennep in 1973 
Lancia Stratos Turbo 
LapsCourse Variant
1906Italy Alessandro CagnoItala 35/40 HP9:32:22446.46946.803Grande Circuit (146 km)
1907Italy Felice NazzaroFiat 28/40 HP8:17:36446.46953.833
1908Italy Vincenzo TruccoIsotta Fraschini7:49:26446.46957.063
1909Italy Francesco CiuppaS.P.A.2:43:19148.82354.671
1910Italy Tullio CariolatoFranco Automobili6:20:47297.64646.902
1911Italy Giovanni "Ernesto" CeiranoSCAT9:32:22[citation needed]446.46946.803
1912United Kingdom Cyril SnipeSCAT 25/3524:37:19979.00041.441Island Tour (short) (979 km)
1913Italy Felice NazzaroNazzaro Tipo 219:18:40979.00050.701
1914Italy Giovanni "Ernesto" CeiranoSCAT 22/3216:51:31979.00058.071
1919France André BoillotPeugeot EXS7:51:01.8432554Media Circuit (108 km)
1920Italy Guido MeregalliNazzaro GP8:27:23.843250.9244
1921Italy Giulio MasettiFiat 4517:25:05.243258.2364
1922Italy Giulio MasettiMercedes GP/146:50:50.243263.0914
1923Italy Ugo SivocciAlfa Romeo RL Targa Florio7:18:00.243259.1774
1924Germany Christian WernerMercedes PP6:32:37.443266.0104
1925Italy Bartolomeo CostantiniBugatti T357:32:27.254071.6095
1926Italy Bartolomeo CostantiniBugatti T35T7:20:45.054073.5075
1927Italy Emilio MaterassiBugatti T35C7:35:55.454071.0655
1928France Albert DivoBugatti T35B7:20:56.654073.4785
1929France Albert DivoBugatti T35C7:15:41.754074.3665
1930Italy Achille VarziAlfa Romeo P26:55:16.654078.0105
1931Italy Tazio NuvolariAlfa Romeo 8C-2300 Monza9:00:27.058464.8344Grande Circuit (146 km)
1932Italy Tazio NuvolariAlfa Romeo 8C-2300 Monza7:15:50.657479.2968Piccolo Circuit (72 km)
1933Italy Antonio BrivioAlfa Romeo 8C-2300 Monza6:35:03.050476.7297
1934Italy Achille VarziAlfa Romeo Tipo-B P36:14:26.843269.2226
1935Italy Antonio BrivioAlfa Romeo Tipo-B P35:27:29.043280.0106
1936Italy Constantino MagistriLancia Augusta2:08:47.214467.0882
1937Italy Giulio SeveriMaserati 6CM2:55'49.0315.6107.70460Favorita Park (5.26 km)
1938Italy Giovanni RoccoMaserati 6CM1:30'04.6171.6114.30330
1939Italy Luigi VilloresiMaserati 6CM1:40.15.4228136.44540
1940Italy Luigi VilloresiMaserati 4CL1:36.08.6228142.28840
1948Italy Clemente Biondetti
Italy Igor Troubetzkoy
Ferrari 16612:12'00.0108088.8661Island Tour (long) (1080 km)
1949Italy Clemente Biondetti
Italy Aldo Benedetti
Ferrari 166 SC13:15.09.4108081.4941
1950Italy Mario Bornigia
Italy Giancarlo Bornigia
Alfa Romeo -
6C 2500 Competizione
1951Italy Franco CorteseFrazer Nash7:31.04.857676.6318Piccolo Circuit (72 km)
1952Italy Felice BonettoLancia Aurelia B207:11.58.057676.6318
1953Italy Umberto MaglioliLancia D20 30007:08.35.857680.6358
1954Italy Piero TaruffiLancia D 246:24.18.057689.9308
1955United Kingdom Stirling Moss
United Kingdom Peter Collins
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR9:43.14.093696.29013Piccolo Circuit (72 km)
1956Italy Umberto Maglioli
West Germany Huschke von Hanstein
Porsche 5507:54.52.672090.77010
1957Italy Fabio ColonaFiat 600-359-5
1958Italy Luigi Musso
Belgium Olivier Gendebien
Ferrari 250 TR10:37.58.1100894.80114
1959West Germany Edgar Barth
West Germany Wolfgang Seidel
Porsche RSK11:02.21.8100891.30914
1960Sweden Jo Bonnier
West Germany Hans Herrmann
United Kingdom Graham Hill
Porsche RS607:33.08.272095.32010
1961West Germany Wolfgang von Trips
Belgium Olivier Gendebien
Ferrari Dino 246 SP6:57.39.4720103.43310
1962Belgium Willy Mairesse
Mexico Ricardo Rodriguez
Belgium Olivier Gendebien
Ferrari Dino 246 SP7:02'56.3720102.14310
1963Sweden Jo Bonnier
Italy Carlo Maria Abate
Porsche 718 GTR6:55.45.1720109.90810
1964United Kingdom Colin Davis
Italy Antonio Pucci
Porsche 904 GTS7:10.53.3720100.25810
1965Italy Nino Vaccarella
Italy Lorenzo Bandini
Ferrari 275 P27:01:12.4720102.56310
1966Belgium Willy Mairesse
Switzerland Herbert Müller
Porsche Carrera 6[9]7:16:32.672098.91010
1967Australia Paul Hawkins
West Germany Rolf Stommelen
Porsche 910 [10]6:37.01.0720108.81210
1968United Kingdom Vic Elford
Italy Umberto Maglioli
Porsche 9076:28:47.9720111.11210
1969West Germany Gerhard Mitter
West Germany Udo Schütz
Porsche 908/26:07:45.3720117.46910
1970Switzerland Jo Siffert
United Kingdom Brian Redman
Porsche 908/3[11]6:35.30.0792120.15211
1971Italy Nino Vaccarella
Netherlands Toine Hezemans
Alfa Romeo 33/36:35:46.2792120.07011
1972Italy Arturo Merzario
Italy Sandro Munari
Ferrari 312PB6:27:48.0792122.53711
1973Switzerland Herbert Müller
Netherlands Gijs van Lennep
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR [12]6:54:20.1792114.69111
1974France Gérard Larrousse
Italy Amilcare Ballestrieri
Lancia Stratos [13]4:35:02.6576114.8838Piccolo Circuit (72 km)
1975Italy Nino Vaccarella
Italy Arturo Merzario
Alfa Romeo 33TT12 [14]4:59:16.7576120.8958
1976Italy "Amphicar"*
Italy Armando Floridia
Osella PA4-BMW [15]5:43:46.057699.0908
1977Italy Raffaele Restivo
Italy Alfonso Merendino
Chevron B36-BMW [15]2:41:17.0288107.1404

Races between 1955 and 1973 were part of the World Championship, with the 1957 race not a race but a regularity test, following the Mille Miglia accident.

Wins by make[edit]

Porsche 910 2.0 coupé driven by Umberto Maglioli and Udo Schütz in 1967.
Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio
Ferrari 275 P2
1927-Bugatti T35c driven by Materassi
Maserati 26MM driven by Luigi Fagioli in 1928

The list below includes all car manufacturers who have attained a podium. The table does not include the results of the 1957 edition, which was held as a regularity race.

1Germany Porsche119128
2Italy Alfa Romeo1013710
3Italy Ferrari7647
4Italy Lancia5754
5France Bugatti5456
6Italy Maserati4694
7Germany Mercedes-Benz3214
8Italy SCAT3000
9Italy Fiat2332
10Italy Nazzaro2000
11Italy Itala1211
12Italy Osella1112
13France Peugeot1111
14United Kingdom Chevron1100
15Italy Società Piemontese Automobili S.P.A.1011
16Italy Franco1001
17Italy Isotta Fraschini1000
17United Kingdom Frazer-Nash1000
19France Ballot0110
19Italy Cisitalia0110
19Italy De Vecchi0110
22Italy Osca0101
23Italy Aquila Italiana0100
23Switzerland Sigma0100
25United Kingdom Lola0011
26Italy Abarth0010
26Italy Alfa-Maserati-Prete0010
26France Berliet0010
26France Darracq0010
26Italy Diatto0010
26Austria Steyr0010
32United Kingdom Aston Martin0001

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "56th Targa Florio 1972". formula2.net. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  2. ^ "Leo Kinnunen". forix.autosport.com. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  3. ^ "Targa Florio 1931". Formula2.net. 2001-08-26. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Targa Florio 1930". Formula2.net. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  5. ^ "1914 Targa Florio - The AUTOSPORT Bulletin Board". Forums.autosport.com. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  6. ^ "Targa Florio 1950". Formula2.net. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  7. ^ "The Leyland P76 a brief history". Themotorreport.com.au. 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2011-05-12. 
  8. ^ "F2 Register - Index". Formula2.net. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  9. ^ "Race report". Imca-slotracing.com. Retrieved 2011-05-12. 
  10. ^ "Race report". Imca-slotracing.com. Retrieved 2011-05-12. 
  11. ^ Race report 54th TARGA FLORIO
  12. ^ Race report TARGA FLORIO (ROUND #6)
  13. ^ "World Sports Racing Prototypes - Non Championship Races 1974". Wsrp.ic.cz. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  14. ^ "World Sports Racing Prototypes - Non Championship Races 1975". Wsrp.ic.cz. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  15. ^ a b "World Sports Racing Prototypes - Non Championship Races 1976". Wsrp.ic.cz. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°56′52″N 13°47′10″E / 37.94778°N 13.78611°E / 37.94778; 13.78611