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Targa Florio


From 1937 to 1940 the race was held at the 3 1/4 mile Parco della Favorita circuit in Palermo. The Targa Florio was now a shadow of its former greatness, held as a 1.5 litre voiturette race in a misguided attempt to attract back the crowd they had lost the years before. The new circuit was quite featureless, running on straight narrow park roads that were surrounded by tight bushes, and circling a little hippodrome in the south-east end of the park where the pits and start/finish line were located. Targa Florio was also the first "Prince of Naples Cup" Maserati would dominate the races first with a Maserati 6CM then in 1940 with a Maserati 4CL. Most of the immense holdings of the Florio family had been nationalized by the Fascist government in Sicily, which only paid a few pennies on the dollar in return. Vincenzo had resigned from the board of the local Auto Club and moved to Rome. He would return to Sicily only after the fall of the regime.

The 28th Targa Florio was held on the 23rd of May, 1937. Giovanni Rocco led at the start of the sixty laps followed by Ettore Bianco and Francesco Severi. After 20 laps Rocco was leading by 33 seconds with Bianco and Severi having a stiff battle for 2nd. All three drivers exchanged the lead during pitstops until Bianco had to fix a broken oil pip and Rocco suffered a broken piston on lap 32. Francesco Severi won by two laps over Giovanni Lurani while Ettore Bianco recovered to 3rd, all driving Maseratis. The 29th Targa Florio was held on the 23rd of May, 1938 and was again run on the narrow Favorita Park circuit, so narrow in places that passing was forbidden on roughly a third of the course. To add further indignity the race was shortened to 30 laps.

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The Targa Florio became an all Maserati event save for one lone Talbot driven by Luigi Platé. Count Giovanni Lurani and Ettore Bianco fought for the early lead only to be involve in accidents leaving Paul Pietsch in the lead until he retired and it was the turn of Luigi Villoresi and Aldo Marazza to fight for the lead. Their fierce battle caused both of the to crash out and Giovanni Rocco took the win in a Maserati 6CM. With still no Alfas or Mercedes cars competing the Maseratis had no problems to control the 1939 race, the 30th Targa Florio. Villoresi took the lead and opened up a one minute gap to Cortese, who was followed by Taruffi and Pietsch. With 8 laps to go Cortese had to retire with a broken gearbox leaving Villoresi to take the flag as the winner followed by seven other Maseratis. Villoresi won again the next year at the 31st Targa Florio held on the 23rd of May, which thankfully was the last race run on the Favorita Park circuit and in fact the last race on European soil. There would be no more Targas for the next eight years. During the Second World War, Vincenzo Florio who had moved to Rome with his wife was arrested by the Germans and held hostage by the Germans before being finally released. The fighting had left its mark on Sicily. The buildings along the sea-front at Palermo had been bombed into ruins, the grandstand at Cerda had been blown-up and the race control tower disassembled. The roads themselves were in an extremely poor state and when the Targa Florio returned to the motor racing calendar on the 3rd of April, 1948, it also thankfully returned to the Madonie Circuit in conjunction with the 8th Giro di Sicilia.

The race, revived, once again was run on the open roads of Sicily and covered approximately a thousand kilometers. The course ran from Palermo - Trapani - Marsala - Agrigento - Caltanissetta - Enna - Gela - Ragusa - Siracusa - Catania - Messina and back to Palermo. A total of eighty-six cars started the 32nd Targa Florio, running counter-clockwise around the island. The Targa Florio/Giro di Sicilia was the first International race in Italy after the end of World War II.

Official teams were entered by Maserati, Ferrari, Cisitalia, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. For Maserati, two 2-litre A6GCS for Villoresi and Ascari; for Ferrari one 166S driven by Franco Cortese. Two private Ferrari 166S were entered by Soave Besana and Prince Igor Troubetzkoy who hired Clemente Biondetti, a four-time Mille Miglia winner, as co-driver. Biondetti-Troubetzkoy won the race. The winning Ferrari 166 Inter Spyder Corsa was designed by Gioacchino Colombo, Angelo Nasi, Giuseppe Busso. The car was powered by a Colombo built V-12, the first of many famous V-12s that would be raced by the Italian company.

This was Ferrari's first victory in a major automobile race since stating his own factory. The Ferrari 166 which won the race was actually a road car which was used when the race car was loaned to another driver. it seems that in the race, most of the pure racing cars experienced problems with the poor fuel available locally, however the road car ran without trouble on the way to victory. They were followed by the wonderful Fiat-powered Cisitalia 202 D Coupés of Piero Taruffi/Domenico Rabbia and Adolfo Macchieraldo/Antonio Savio, two of three specially built racing Corsas.

Targa Florio 1949Biondetti repeated the following year at the 33rd Targa Florio with Carlo Benedetti as his co-driver, again driving a Ferrari 166. The race, held on the 20th of March, 1949 was run in a downpour and Dorino Serafini driving a Frazer-Nash led during the early portion of the race but was forced to retire after hitting a kerb at Ragusa. This allowed Roberto Vallone driving a Ferrari 166 SC into the lead to Catania where rear-axle trouble ended his day. Franco Rol put up good fight until he was delayed by a freight train which pushed his Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione which he was sharing with Vincenzo Richiero to 2nd followed by Giovanni Rocco/Placido Priest driving a Alfa Romeo Priest 2500 in 3rd.

In 1950, at the 34th Targa Florio Clemente Biondetti was driving one of the new Jaguar XK120s that had been first shown at the 1948 London Motor Show. Running 2nd behind the Ferrari 195S of Alberto Ascari he assumed the lead when Ascari's car went out with engine trouble and looked st for his 3rd win in succession until his Jaguar too failed. Franco Rol (Alfa Romeo), a wealthy sportsman and industrialist, and Franco Cortese (Frazer-Nash) took turns in the lead until split fuel tanks put both out. This left brothers, Mario Bornigia and Giancarlo Bornigia, auto dealers from Rome to take the win driving a Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione. Inico Bernabei /Tullio Pacini driving a Ferrari 166S finished 2nd followed by Stefano La Motta/Gennaro Alterio driving another Ferrari in 3rd.

Tazio NuvolariDriving a small 1.1 Litre Cisitalia/Abarth but crashing out early on was the greatest driver that has ever lived, Tazio Nuvolari, age 57 and driving his last major race. Nuvolari's headlights had failed, so he went on in the dark, following the lights of another car for a long stretch. But the driver ahead of him was too slow, and Nuvolari decided to overtake him. Without any lights he crashed into another car on the roadside that had slid on the wet asphalt, and his race was over. A legend in his own lifetime, he was known as Il Montavano Volante, the Flying Mantuan. He epitomized courage and daring and for 30 years he amazed the racing world with his exploits on both two and four wheels. On August 11th, 1953, 9 months after suffering a paralyzing stroke he was dead. "Whenever I think of him today, I feel myself smiling. He was so full of life, almost bursting. We were astounded by him as a driver and loved him as a man." - René Dreyfus

Tazio Nuvolari

The 35th Targa Florio and the Giro di Sicilia went back to being separate events, with the Targa consisting of 8 laps over the 72 km Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie for a total of 576 km.

Frazer-NashThe race was held on the 9th of September with Giovanni Bracco driving a 4.1 litre Ferrari for Scuderia Marzotto, taking the early lead only for his car to quit on the 2nd lap. Undaunted Bracco took over the Ferrari of his teammate, Franco Cornacchia. With the bit between his teeth Bracco was able to climb back to 2nd. Franco Cortese took over the lead which he would not relinquish, driving a private entry British Frazer-Nash, the first and last British car to win the Targa Florio until 1977 when another Anglo-German Chevron B36 BMW.. Fraser-Nash were BMW importers and the cars including the engine was largely a direct evolution of the sporting BMW 328. Giovanni Bracco/Franco Cornacchia driving a Ferrari 212 Export came in 2nd followed by Inico Bernabei/Tullio Pacini driving a Maserati A6 GCS in 3rd.

With the arrival of Gianni Lancia as the head of the firm in 1937, Vittorio Jano, already famous from his work at Alfa Romeo, was taken on as technical director. In 1950 Vittorio Jano, the famous Fiat and Alfa Romeo automotive engineer developed the Lancia Aurelia which was powered by the first production V6 engine, a 60° design developed by Francesco de Virgilio. A competition version was soon built and racing success came swiftly. In action, the B20 GT silenced any doubts as to its sporting prowess by finishing second in the Mille Miglia in 1951, piloted by Giovanni Bracco and Umberto Maglioli, followed up this initial success with other victories including first in class and 12th overall at Le Mans. Lancias would win the next three Targa Florios. The winning driver for 1952, the 36th Targa Florio was Felice Bonetto who led a Lancia 1-2-3 with teammates Gino Valenzano and Enrico Anselmi 2nd and 3rd respectivly. Valenzano had met Gianni Lancia son of Vincenzo at Abarth and was invited by Lancia to join his racing team.

Lancia D20In 1953 Gianni Lancia wished to make a car with which to take part in the World Sportscar Championship, which was to start in 1953. A team of designers – consisting of Ettore Zaccone Mina for the engine, Francesco Faleo for the rolling chassis and Luigi Bosco for the transmission – set to work under Jano’s management to develop the D20. The engine with aluminum head and crankcase had detachable wet cylinder liners and only kept the six-cylinder, 60° V-architecture from the Aurelia. The double overhead valves were driven by four camshafts and featured two spark plugs for each cylinder. The Coupé bodywork, made by Pinin Farina, was supported by a framework chassis in welded steel tubing. In total, seven D20 cars took part in different sporting events during 1953.

Targa Florio 1953Umberto Maglioli would take one of the D20s and win the 37th Targa Florio. This would be Maglioli's first of three wins in the event. Piero Taruffi was leading entering the last lap but a signal from his pits to go faster, unnecessarily it turned out causing him to overdue it and crash. The 1952 race winner, Felice Bonetto decided to take a reconnaissance lap an hour prior to the start of the race. The same idea occurred to the Fiat Stanguellin driver, Agostino Bignami ... unfortunately in opposite directions. The resultant crash put both drivers out of the race but more or less unharmed except for their pride. Emilio Giletti driving Maserati A6 GCS/53 came in 2nd followed by Sergio Mantovani/Juan-Manuel Fangio driving a Maserati A6 GCS/53 in 3rd. Fangio was never a big fan of the race. In 1954 Lancia added to their Mille Miglia crown with a win in the Targa Florio when Piero Taruffi got his revenge driving a Lancia D24 to victory at the 38th Targa Florio, held on the 30th of May. He was followed by Luigi Musso in a Maserati A6 in 2nd and Roberto Piodi driving a Lancia Aurelia B20 in 3rd. The early leader, Castellotti crashed out of the race while Musso drove himself to exhaustion, having to stop along the road for water.

1954 Targa Florio - Piero Taruffi

After Lancia scored their third straight win in this classic race they decided to abandon sports car racing to concentrate on Formula 1, a move that would later bankrupt the company.


Giulio Severi Maserati 6CM
Giovanni Rocco Maserati 6CM
Luigi Villoresi Maserati 6CM
Luigi Villoresi Maserati 4CL
Clemente Biondetti/Aldo Benedetti Ferrari 166
Clemente Biondetti/Aldo Benedetti Ferrari 166 SC
Mario Bornigia/Giancarlo Bornigia Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione
Franco Cortese Frazer Nash
Felice Bonetto Lancia Aurelia B20
Umberto Maglioli Lancia D20 3000

Piero Taruffi

Lancia D 24