Targa Florio was the race that can not be compared with any other
Targa Florio was an endurance race held on an open road in the mountains of Sicily, near the city of Palermo.
Exciting 71 years
The race was founded in 1906 and was the oldest sports car racing event, part of the World Sportscar Championship between 1955 and 1973. After that, the race was a part of the national sports car event, until it was discontinued in 1977 due to safety reasons. But, the race is still alive as a part of the Italian Rally Championship.
A dream come true for Vincenzo Florio
The founder of the race was a racing pioneer and wealthy automobile enthusiast Vincenzo Florio. Targa Florio was one of the hardest motorsport competitions in Europe with a length of 446 km through multiple hairpin curves on dangerous mountain roads, at heights where severe weather changes were frequent. Very quickly, Targa Florio became one of the most important and most popular racing events in Europe. During the 1920s, many famous racers of that time took part in Targa Florio. The FIA in 1953 formed new series called World Sportscar Championship and Targa Florio became a part of it two years later.
Huge lap around Sicily
The course of Targa Florio had several versions. It started with a single lap of a 148 km circuit from 1906-1911 and 1931. From 1912 to 1914, the race was a tour around Sicily, with a single lap of 975 kilometres, lengthened to 1080 km from 1948 to 1950. The 148 km circuit called Grande was shortened twice, the first time to 108 km, the version used from 1919 to 1930, and then to the 72 km circuit used from 1932 to 1936 and 1951 to 1977. From 1951 to 1958, the long coastal island tour variant was used for a separate event called the Giro di Sicilia.
More than 2000 corners on the course and various types of cars
The challenge that this race has provided can’t be compared with any other race or track. The original Grande circuit had over 2000 corners per lap, and when it was shortened, it had almost 900 corners per lap. By comparison, the longest racing circuit in the world, Nurburgring, has about 180 corners, so it was very difficult to learn all the specifications of the track, especially as it was used for public traffic.
Video – Targa Florio episode of Classic Races documentary
Even with all the aggravating circumstances, some impressive results were achieved at the Targa Florio. Leo Kinnunen in 1970 was the fastest ever, lapping in the Porsche 908/3 at 128.571 km/h or 33 minutes and 36 seconds.
Insane, but still widely popular race
The last ‘original’ Targa Florio was held in 1973. Many drivers called this race totally insane, especially after a few huge crashes, two of which were fatal. The FIA mandated safety walls on all circuits that were going to hold FIA events, and given almost 80km of combined public roads, Targa Florio was simply impossible and completely unsustainable, especially from a financial standpoint.
But interestingly, during 71 years, only nine people including spectators died during Targa Florio. That number is relatively small in comparison to another legendary race held in Italy, Mille Miglia, where 56 people lost their lives during 30 years and total of 24 races.
Porsche was the most successful
With 11 victories, Porsche was the most successful manufacturer at Targa Florio and after a couple of wins, they named the convertible version of the 911 after the Targa. Alfa Romeo is the second on the list of the most successful cars with 10 wins, while Ferrari had seven victories. Lancia and Bugatti are the five-time winners while a total of 32 manufacturers recorded at least one victory in this unique and incredible race, that is unimaginable in today’s world of racing.