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Targa Florio: 1955-1973
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Targa Florio: 20th Century Epic
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Targa Florio: The Porsche and Ferrari Years, 1955-1964
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Targa Florio


1920 Targa FlorioThe 11th Targa Florio was held on the 24th of October, 1920 and once again strong rains greeted the competitors. Ferrari finished second behind Guido Meregalli (Nazzaro GP) after Alfa Romeo's team leader Campari had retired. Ferrari driving an Alfa Romeo 40/60 also recorded the fastest lap. Third place was Luigi Lopez driving a Darracq.

The race in 1921 saw the 12th Targa Florio finally come of age with the appearance of the first full works team. Alfa Romeo entered four specially prepared cars driven by Antonio Ascari, Giuseppe Campari, Ugo Sivocci and Enzo Ferrari while Fiat entered two new cars. But it was the amateur Count Guilio Masetti and Max Sailor driving a Mercedes who dominated the race. The Mercedes was a factory entrant in all but name, a 7.25-litre 6-cylinder monster that was driven in the 1913 Indianapolis 500 by Ralph de Palma. The battle between the two was finally won by Masetti in a "one off" Grand Prix Fiat. Less that ten minutes covered the first six cars.

1922, the 13th Targa Florio saw the introduction of racing categories or classes. Touring and Sports cars were in classes established by engine displacement while all the pure race cars were lumped into one group. The race was run for 4 laps on a shortened variant of the Madonie course known as the Polizzi circuit, cutting out some of the mountains from the pre-war circuit. On the starting line, the 2nd of April were four German car builders Mercedes, Steyr, Austro-Daimler and Wanderer. The Italians were represented by Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Diatto and Itala. All told there were 42 starters of which there were 24 classified. The Mercedes team had not left anything to chance and had arrived a month before the race with 20 drivers and mechanics for tests. Count Giulio Masetti driving a Mercedes GP/14 repeated as the overall winner. Jules Goux and Giulio Foresti driving Ballots came in 2nd and 3rd. It was reported by a member of the press that a Fiat driven by the great Felice Nazzaro had over turned killing the famous driver and his mechanic. Luckily the story proved to be far off the mark, the actual driver was his nephew Biaggio who was thrown clear of the crash and suffered only minor scrapes and bruises. Enrico Giaccone who ran out of spare tires had to stop several times for flats and eventually pumped his way into fifth position having to watch both Giulio Foresti's Ballot and Antonio Ascari's Alfa Romeo pass him by.

Alfa RL1923 would prove a down year for the 14th Targa Florio with only fifteen starters gathered on the 15th of April. Ugo Sivocci beat Antonio Ascari to the line, both driving Alfa Romeos. Nando Minoia was third in a Steyer while Count Masetti was fourth in a private Alfa Romeo. Famously superstitious, Sivocci painted a green cloverleaf symbol on a white background on the bonnet of his Giuseppe Merosi designed Alfa Romeo RL, and after he won the Targa Florio in 1923 that symbol was adopted by the Alfa Romeo team and used to this day as a good luck token on all its race team cars. Just as 1923 had been a down year the opposite was true in 1924. MercedesThe 15th Targa Florio saw Mercedes enter cars for Christian Werner, Lautenschlager and Alfred Neubauer. While Alfa Romeo had cars for Ascari, Campari and pre-war veteran driver Louis Wagner. Count Masetti entered a private Alfa Romeo. Fiat had one supercharged car for Carlos Salamano but when he was injured in a practice accident Felice Nazzaro offered to take his place, that was until he test drove the car and found it's handling not to to his liking. This left Pietro Bordino to race the car. After the first lap, five cars were vying for the lead, but eventually the race boiled down between a battle between Werner's Mercedes and Ascari's Alfa. Alfred Neubauer finished thirteenth with his co-driver Ferdinand Porsche while Christian Werner won in a Mercedes after Antonio Ascari and his co-driver Giulio Ramponi were forced to push their stricken car over the line.

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In 1925 Peugeot entered a team of four cars against a new Bugatti works team. The 16h Targa Florio was held under warm and sunny conditions on the 3rd of May and after the first lap Louis Wagner was first on time but following his Peugeot teammate, Christian Dauvergne on the road. Wagner was preparing to pass when suddenly Dauvergne crashed. His mechanic was thrown clear but Dauvergne was trapped under the car which began to burn. His mechanic, stunned but unhurt for the most part tried to free his driver with the help from some spectators when Wagner came upon the scene. Seeing what was happening Wagner immediately stopped to render assistance and together they finally freed Dauvergne, badly burned but still alive. Wagner resumed his race but by then he had given over the lead to Meo Constantini. He would finish 2nd to the Italian's Bugatti. This would mark the beginning of the Bugatti era at the Targa Florio, where unlike their lack of success at the Mille Miglia they would dominate in Sicily including 1926, at the 17th Targa Florio when they scored a 1-2-3 led by Constantini, last years winner. The race would start tragically when two-time winner Guilio Masetti would crash fatally on the first lap when his Delage hit a bank and rolled over crushing the driver. His body remained under the overturned car, guarded by a lone carabiniere throughout the race a grim reminder to all that passed who but for the grace of God could suffer a similar fate.

Count Guilio MasettiHe was known as the Lion of Madonie for his mastery of the Targa Florio in the 1920s. Born of noble birth, Count Giulio Masetti da Bagnano was born in Vinci, Italy in 1894. He and his brother, Carlo who would also become a racing car driver were raised at the Castello di Uzzano, a palace in Greve in Chianti owned by the Masetti di Bagnano family since 1644. Masetti acquired his first car, a 4.5-litre Fiat S57 B14 from Antonio Ascari with which he raced and won the 1921 Targa Florio. His privately entered ex-Otto Salzer 1914 Mercedes 4.5-litre 115 HP 18/100 won the following year. He later joined the joining the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq team where his best finish was third in a Sunbeam 135 bhp 2-litre at the 1925 French Grand Prix. He was supposed to drive a Darracq in 1926 but it was late in arriving so drove the Delage instead. Some have surmised that it was brake failure that caused his fatal crash, perhaps unwilling to believe a simple driver mistake could have caused the death of a Lion.

Meo CostantiniAt the end of the season Bartolomeo "Meo" Costantini, winner of the last two Targas decided to retire from driving and took over as racing team manager full-time at Bugatti. Born on the 14th of February, 1989, Costantini was a flying ace in WWI having been awarded three times for bravery, he retired as a Major. In 1923 he joined Bugatti and was their racing manager until 1935 when Bugatti's son Jean took the position.

Costantini would over see a veritable army of Bugattis at the next Targa. In addition to works T35Cs for Materassi, Dubonnet and Minoia there were privately entered T35s and T37s which Costantini supported as well. Opposition would come from a 4-litre driven by André Boillot and a team of Tipo 26 Maseratis.

The 18th Targa Florio held on April 24th, 1927 saw 22 starters. Minoia grabbed the early lead only to be forced out with a broken torque arm. Mme Junek driving a privately entered Bugatti crashed into a wall when something in her steering box broke. Materassi took the lead and went on to win, recovering from an off track excursion on the 3rd lap. He was followed by Count Caberto Conelli in another private Bugatti, this being one of the T37s. The Maserati 26B driven by Alfieri Maserati came in 3rd. Alfieri along with his brothers had founded the famous Maserati sports car company in Bologna. Dubonnet in the other works Bugatti came in sixth. In honor of their 3rd win in a row the team was awarded a donkey, named Totosche by Vincenzo Florio which was happily taken back to Molsheim to live, that is until the Germans came.

1928 - Targa Florio. 26B, with Ernesto Maserati in paddock - mechanic in carThe 1928 edition of the race would see thirty-seven cars at the starting line. The favorites were last year's winners, the Bugatti team consisting of Albert Divo on a 2.3-litre machine, Louis Chiron and Count Brilli-Peri on the 2-litres, and Count Conelli and the veteran Nando MinoIa on the 1,500 C.C. Alfa Romeo had two cars for Guiseppe Campari and Attilio Marinoni, while Maserati had cars for Ernesto Maserati, the Marquis de Sterlich, Baconin Borzzachini, Salvatore Marano and Luigi Fagioli. The bulk of the field was made up of amateurs of various skill including a former motorcycle racer by the name of Tazio Nuvolari driving a privately entered Bugatti. Nuvolari had expected to drive a works Bugatti but a dispute between Nuvolari, who could be a hard man when it came to racing and Bugatti race manager Meo Costantini saw any offer disappear.

Albert DivoAt eight o'clock on the morning of Sunday, 6th May, at the 19th Targa Florio the first car was sent off on its long journey, followed at one minute intervals by the remaining 36, each eager to win the dual prize, the Targa for the driver and the Florio Cup for the manufacturer of the winning car. By the end of the first first lap Chiron was in the lead followed by Campari, Divo, Junek and Nuvolari. Incredibly after lap to the female driver Elizabeth Junek was in the lead! Engine trouble ended the day for Nuvolari as well as Brilli-Peri. By the third lap Campari had bullied himself into the lead but Junek was not done yet, holding onto 2nd place. The 1,100cc class race was done and the Fiat's of Riccioli and Rallo finishing 1-2 as they were the only cars in their class to make it that far. It was two more laps for the bigger cars and Campari, Junek and Divo rounded out the top three. As Campari led into the last lap, it looked as if Bugatti's string of victories in the Targa was about to end. But such was not to be. Count ConelliIn order to save weight, the Alfa-Romeos only carried one spare wheel, and as fate would have it, Campari burst his spare, and had to drive six miles on the rim to his next tyre depot!

In the meantime, Divo made a final sprint which took him ahead of Campari and of Madame Junek, who was also passed by Conelli and Chiron. The final results had Albert Divo driving a Bugatti T35B, 1st with a time of 7 hours 20 minutes 56 seconds followed by Guiseppe Campari less than two minutes behind him in one of the closest races that the Targa has ever provided. Behind Campari came one of his compatriots, Count Conelli, only 17 seconds later in a race of 335 miles. Fourth place was Louis Chiron and fifth came the Czechoslovakian, Madame Junek, who was only nine minutes behind the winner, slowed by water leak that caused her engine to overheat.

Elizabeth JunekBorn Alžběta Pošpíailová, Junek is regarded as one of the greatest female drivers in Grand Prix motor racing history. She used the name Eliška Junkov&aacut and was from the town of Olomouc in Moravia. Nicknamed "smisek" for her ever-present smile, she dreamt of traveling the world and loved to study foreign languages. She got a job in the Olomouc bank and it was there that she met Vincenc "Cenek" Junek, an ambitious young man who had been discharged from the army after being shot in the hand. Vincenc loved cars and racing and in 1922 he won the Zbraslav-Jiloviste hill climb. He also married Eliška that year. They started racing together in local events but because of his wartime injury, Cenek had trouble shifting gears and so Eliška, who started as his riding mechanic, took over the driving duties. That year they bought a Mercedes and a Bugatti Type 30 which had been raced in the Grand Prix de France at Strasbourg. Cenek gave the Bugatti to his wife in 1923. As Eliška gained fame throughout Europe, her name was anglicized to Elizabeth and by 1926 was good enough to compete in races around Europe against the best male drivers of the time. In 1926, she first competed in the Targa Florio in Sicily, a race where physical strength was a necessity. Although her vehicle crashed and she was out of the race, her performance earned her a great deal of respect. Bugatti T35BShortly thereafter, she won the two-liter sports car class at Nürburgring, Germany, making her the only woman in history to have ever won a Grand Prix race. It was at the Nürburgring in another race that they were sharing the driving duties that her husband went off course and was killed instantly. Devastated, she gave up racing and sold her vehicles.

With communist rule in Czechoslovakia she was largely forgotten by the motor racing world. At the age of 91 and against the advice of her doctor, she attended a Bugatti reunion in the United States, as the guest of honor.

Alfa Romeo 6c 1750 SSThe 20th Targa Florio held on 5th of May, 1929 was run under warm sunshine and saw a battle between five works Bugattis and 3 of the works Alfa Romeos. Of the 19 starters, only 4 actually finished the race. Even with the extra power the Alfas could not stay ahead of the more nimble Bugattis. Albert Divo repeated last year's victory driving a Bugatti T35 followed by his teammate Ferdinando Minoia in 2nd, with Gastone Brilli-Peri in 3rd driving the Alfa Romeo 6C-1750 SS and his teammate Giuseppe Campari in 4th.

20 Alfa Romeo 6c 1750 SS - G.Brilli Peri


Guido Meregalli Nazzaro GP
Giulio Masetti Fiat 451
Giulio Masetti Mercedes GP/14
Ugo Sivocci Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio
Christian Werner Mercedes PP
Bartolomeo "Meo" Costantini Bugatti T35
Bartolomeo "Meo" Costantini Bugatti T35T
Emilio Materassi Bugatti T35C
Albert Divo Bugatti T35B
Albert Divo Bugatti T35C