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Enzo Ferrari e Giulio Ramponi alla guida della Targa Florio

Targa Florio 1907Vincenzo Florio, scion of a prominent Sicilian family, longed to travel the world beyond Sicily. As soon as he could he traveled to Germany and France. While in Paris he came upon a showroom that contained a machine he had never seen before. The machine was a de Dion motor tricycles which he promptly purchased and had shipped back to Palermo. The new contraption caused quite a sensation as it was unloaded onto the dock. Unfortunately there it stayed due to the fact that there was not any gasoline available in all of Sicily! Urgent cables to Paris finally brought a shipment of the precious fuel. After the initial thrill of driving his new toy began to wear off he decided to have a race. The only problem was that his was the sole motor car on the Island which would make for a poor race. It was decided that he would organize a handicap race between his car, a cyclist and a horseman. The cyclist was the first to drop out with cramps which put Vincenzo and his car in the lead, but the lead was short lived when his engine began to over heat. Scoring one last win in the battle of horse and machine the horseman galloped past to take the victory. Rather than wallowing in defeat Vicenzo vowed to return from France with a real motor car. He tried many different cars but the hilly Sicilian countryside proved too much for the fragile cars. Finally he turned to a new Italian manufacturer, Fiat.

Targa FlorioThe turn of the century Fiat was a company that believed in service and would send a representative to each customer to ensure that the customer was properly trained in the care and maintenance of their new car. To Sicily they sent a young apprentice named Felice Nazzaro who would soon make a name for himself as one of the first great racing car drivers. Nazzaro and Vincenzo became fast friends. He induced Nazzaro to stay in Sicily to take care of his growing stable of cars. Vincenzo's rich friends did not sit still while all of this was taking place, they also bought cars and had them shipped to Sicily. Soon races were organized in Favorita Park. Feeling himself sufficiently experienced he decided to order a real racing car with which he could compete in races in the rest of Europe. Fiat fearing that Vincenzo was a still to young and experienced would not sell him a car. After much searching he bought a dis-assembled Panhard and had it rebuilt. Nazzaro brought the new car up to race readiness and in its first competition, Vicenzo Florio won a speed trial in Padua.

Targa FlorioEmboldened by this easy win he prepared to enter the infamous 1903 Paris to Madrid race. His brother Ignazio, hearing of this conspired to prevent his under-age brother from leaving the island and may actually have saved his life. The race was stopped short of the end after numerous fatal accidents that took the lives of spectators and drivers including the Renault brother Marcel. The next big race on the calendar was the race in Brescia which Vincenzo entered without his older brothers knowledge and in which he finished a respectable third. After he was finally judged to be of age and no longer the responsibility of his brother, Vincenzo entered every race that he could including the Kaiserpreis, the first French Grand Prix and the Gordon Bennet cup. While competing in one of these races he met a man by the name of Henri Desgrange who was the editor of l'Auto. Desgrange suggested to Vincenzo that he should organize a international race in Sicily.  

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Targa Florio
Italian website dedicated to the Targa Florio

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