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Targa Florio

Long Madonie
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Little Madonie


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Enzo Ferrari e Giulio Ramponi alla guida della Targa Florio
 


 

The race in 1921 saw the 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 saw the introduction of racing categories or classes at the Targa. Touring and Sports cars were in classes established by engine displacement while all the pure race cars were lumped into one group. On the starting line were German car builders Mercedes, Steyr, Austro-Daimler and Wanderer. The Italians were represented by Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Diatto and Itala. Giulio Masetti driving a Mercedes GP/14 repeated as the overall winner.

1923 would prove a down year with only fifteen starters with Ugo Sivocci beating 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. Just as 1923 had been a down year the opposite was true in 1924. Mercedes entered 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 Ramponi were forced to push their stricken car over the line.

In 1925 Peugeot entered a team of four cars against a new Bugatti works team. 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 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.

Targa Florio Elizabeth Junek was the sensation of the 1928 year's race. She fought for the lead with such legendary greats as Giuseppe Campari and Tazio Nuvolari, but a water leak caused the engine to overheat on the fifth and last lap and she dropped to fifth. Albert Divo, was the ultimate winner in a Bugatti T35B. Bugattis would win three races in a row but things would change in 1930, Tazio Nuvolari and Achille Varzi continued their intense rivalry at the Targa Florio. Both drove Alfas but Varzi's was the more powerful P2. At the start of the race Varzi stormed into the lead but trouble struck when his spare wheel worked itself lose along the jarring mountain roads. The wheel would puncture his fuel tank causing him to stop more often for fuel. At the last stop his riding mechanic grabbed a spare fuel can. While racing along a downhill stretch his mechanic attempted to refuel the car. Unfortunately a high IQ was not a prerequisite for being a racing mechanic and the car caught fire when some of the fuel spilled onto the hot exhaust. Varzi unwilling to stop and lose the race to his bitter rival continued on while his mechanic beat the fires furiously with his seat cushion. They would in effect blaze their way to a win Thus they won the race in truly spectacular fashion. This proved to be the first of five straight victories for Alfa. Nuvolari would get his revenge by winning in in 1931 and 1932 while Varzi returned to the winners circle in 1934. In 1931 René Dreyfus was the only foreigner amongst the Italians where just 13 cars arrived at the start. Though the first to reach the finish on the road was Varzi, greeted with great applause, Nuvolari, who was ahead of Varzi on time arrived at the finish under pouring rain, shortly thereafter followed by Borzacchini in second place.

In 1933 date conflicts meant that neither Nuvolari or Varzi made that year's race. At the end of the first lap Baconin Borzacchini was leading with a time of 54m11s, followed by Antonio Brivio 1 minute 14s behind. By the 3rd lap Borzacchini was still leading the race and continued to add to the gap making the fastest lap. Everything looked set for a clear victory for the popular but unlucky man from Terni. On the fourth lap Borzacchini got a puncture near Collesano, the delay dropping him nine minutes behind Brivio who had taken over the lead. When Borzacchini tried to make up for the lost time he made a mistake and hit a stone wall near Collesano. While he managed to take the car back to the pits he was forced to retire with broken suspension. Brivio was now leading and took the flag by 20 minutes over the second place driver. The Targa Florio in 1934 saw a single Bugatti and a single Maserati and no Nuvolari to challenge Varzi driving one of ten Alfa Romeos. Rain made the course even more dangerous than usual. Giovanni Alloatti in a Bugatti went over a bridge parapet on the second lap and received wounds that eventually proved fatal. Pietro Ghersi in the works Alfa Romeo led for the first two laps but then went off and lost twenty minutes for repairs. His teammate Varzi took over the lead and dominated the rest of the race in the rain to take the win.

The Ferrari entered Alfa Romeos of Antonio Brivio and Louis Chiron dominated the 1935 Targa Florio race. Chiron took an early lead followed by Carlo Pintacuda, Brivio and Fernando Barbieri. At the end of the first lap the order was Chiron, Brivio, Constantino Magistri and Pintacuda. On the second lap Brivio took over the lead and Chiron, who was in trouble with his car, also had to let Magistri by. Later Chiron managed to take back his second position. Brivio was never challenged and took the flag nearly 7 minutes in front of his team mate Chiron. Only two laps of the Piccolo Madonie circuit for 1-liter sports cars comprised the December 1936 Targa Florio. Lancia took the first four places, led by Magistri's 1.2-liter Augusta.

 
 


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Vincenzo Trucco at the start of the Targa Florio,
Sicily, 1908 driving an Isotta-Fraschini.


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Targa Florio, Sicily 1922


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Participants in the Targa Florio race, Sicily,
1907 chat to each other along a muddy road.

 


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Vincenzo Lancia taking part in the Targa Florio,
1907. Driving a Fiat, he finished second.


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Felice Nazzaro driving through Pettralia Sottana
in a Fiat, in the Targa Florio race, Sicily, 1907.


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Achille Varzi in a P2 Alfa Romeo Grand Prix
car, in the Targa Florio race, Sicily, 1930.