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Sports Cars 9

Vic Elford on the Targa Florio

Even in the 1970s, the Targa Florio was an anachronism. Held around the twisting roads of Sicily, it was a major part of the sports car championship for many years. Cars set off at 15 second intervals and raced around the (for most of its history) 45 mile circuit that ran through the hills and towns of the island.

The 1972 race seen in this video was won by Ferrari drivers Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari. The Scuderia dominated the sports car season that year with the 312PB, winning every round except Le Mans – which they didn’t even enter, fearing their F1-derived engines wouldn’t last the distance. Munari was an interesting addition to the team for the Targa. A rally driver – and later a champion for Lancia – he knew the area like the back of his hand and his talents combined with the aggressive Merzario made for an effective pairing.

Vic Elford won the event in 1968, sharing a Porsche 907 with Umberto Maglioli. ‘Quick Vic’ became a hero to many after the victory, having lost 18 minutes on the first lap after a tyre failure. One of the most intriguing parts of the film is his description of Helmut Marko’s worries about the race and subsequent lap record. After making headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, it’s a great reminder that he was capable of a banzai performance in his day.

This video is an excerpt from the film The Speed Merchants, a documentary following the 1972 sports car season. It’s well worth a watch.

sports cars  Vic Elford on the Targa Florio

Add your comments

9 comments on Vic Elford on the Targa Florio

  1. Rich Ambroson, 17 January 2013 17:49

    My favorite portion of an outstanding film! Anyone who hasn’t had the good fortune to view or own a copy of this film should try and do so as soon as possible. It’s fantastically well done. The Le Mans segment is especially poignant.

    But the Targa Florio. Now THAT was a motor race. I love Graham Hill’s quote in the 1965 Castrol film about the race “Mountain Legend”. Hill says something along the lines of “it’s good to come here once a year to get perspective, otherwise you might think you’re better than you actually are”.

    One of THE greatest racing events of all time, the Targa Florio. Thanks for sharing this most wonderful of clips, Alex!

  2. Chris Wright, 17 January 2013 18:24

    THIS was the sport I fell in love with. Charismatic drivers, brutal cars, truly challenging circuits and, yes, a frisson of danger. Would rather watch archive movies like this than a modern day Grand Prix on one of those sterile tracks with equally characterless drivers, Kimi excluded of course.

  3. Matt Wills, 17 January 2013 19:48

    Great days before standard ecu,s standard tyres, standard tracks, health and safety and PC drivers.

  4. John, 18 January 2013 07:47

    Just brilliant!!
    Quick Vic, as mentioned before in this mag one of the most underrated drivers ever, today he would an even bigger star.

  5. Borrani, 18 January 2013 14:24

    Brilliant, Alex. Loved the haze of dust in the early laps. And the Ferrari and Alfa happened to be two of the best looking sports racing cars ever.

    Helmut Marko showed real promise at the time, and it was tragic that his career was finished by injury in the French GP at Clermont Ferrand. We’ll allow him to make a few grumpy comments now and then.

  6. JCR, 18 January 2013 17:49

    “Speed Merchants” is one of my all time favourite motor racing films and just brings home to me why us guys of a certain vintage go all dewy eyed over times past. Nothing on offer today can come remotely close, for those drivers; cars and circuits were plain legendary.

    As a kid growing up in the 60′s I used to avidly wait for Jenks evocative race reports from the Targa, and his Continental Correspondent articles. I was never fortunate enough to see film of the Targa until much later but his reports and the photos from MS; Motoring News and Autosport (when it was worthy) painted the picture.

    Although I think many at the time hated the passing of the 917 & 512′s this had to be the best season for the 3 litre prototypes. The sound of that flat 12 in little Art’s 312PB sends goose bumps up the neck.

    We sadly will never see the like again but at least we were around when it was. I am now going to watch Speed Merchants once more and forget the snow outside.

  7. John Read, 19 January 2013 05:27

    You don’t see the servings of lung cancer at lunch anymore like back then. It’s a wonder anyone could see their food!

  8. IM, 21 January 2013 12:34

    Fantastic event but isn’t it basically a road rally with inappropriate cars? So, there are still events that are somewhat similar – in fact rather a lot of them???

  9. Alastair Warren, 26 January 2013 01:47

    It’s just me that thinks Christian Horner looks like a young Helmut Marko?

    Thanks for the link Alex.

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