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Targa Florio

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Enzo Ferrari e Giulio Ramponi alla guida della Targa Florio
 
 

Buy at Art.comBesides the course which traversed mountain roads unchanged since the Punic Wars, there were severe changes in climate, bandits and wolves. 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). Initially there were few rules and the event was open to standard cars of which at least ten identical models had been built. The first race was held on the sixth of May, 1906 for production cars of which at least ten had to have been built. Only ten cars made it to the starting line due to strikes in France and a delay at the dock in Genoa. The race 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. The race proved very popular with the local populace and next years race brought more than 50 entries.

In 1907 the race 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. Forty-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, and soon he could see Nazzaro just ahead of him. But alas his engine revs shot up yet his car slowed down and then he found the reason, a broken drive shaft. Nazzaro won the second Targa Florio followed by Lancia. 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. The third Targa Florio only had thirteen entries after the French decided to stay away. The race was won by Vincenzo Trucco in a Isotta Fraschini.

Targa FlorioThe fourth Targa was almost canceled when an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Messina. Moments later, 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 the winning Società Piemontese Automobili (S.P.A.) 28/40 driven by Francesco Ciuppa was slower than the previous year. About the same time, the Florio family was experiencing a number of personal tragedies. Their business empire crashed 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. In 1912 the circuit was increased to nearly 1,000 km around the perimeter of the island. This was 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. 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 24h37m19s to complete the race.

As a result, in 1913 the race was broken into two legs. This proved to be a positive change evidenced by 33 entrants showing up at the starting line in Palermo. Italians restored their dominance with Felice Nazzaro driving a Nazzaro Tipo 2 completing the course over four hours faster than Snipe did in 1912. The story was much the same in 1914 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 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 Lancia in his first major race.

The weather for the November race was abysmal and saw Antonio Ascari 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. But Rene Thomas, driving a Ballot was serenely in the lead, or at least he was until his frantic crew was 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, Ernest Ballot's decision met with the approval of the crowd and André Boillot was declared the winner where upon he fainted straight away.

 
 


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