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The Sicilian roads stirred Jenks’ blood on his trips to the Targa

The Targa Florio is not so much a race as a state of mind, and a drive down through Southern Italy and along the fantastic northern coast road of Sicily puts you well into the atmosphere that can only be Targa Florio. No matter how quietly you leave Messina, heading west for Palermo, the mountain roads soon get into your blood, as does the approaching awareness of the Targa Florio, and if you do not get involved in a hair-raising dice with a local ‘sporty boy’, which is hard to avoid, the mere nature of the road tends to lead you on until tyres are screaming and rock walls are getting perilously close.

The pre-race centre of the Targa Florio used to be Palermo, but with increasing chaos in the city traffic the organisation moved out to Cefalù, a few miles from the Circuit of the Madonie where the race is held. Known as the Little Circuit of the Madonie, it is 72kms (44 miles) to the lap, and not to be confused with the real Circuit of the Madonie on which the race used to be held in early days, which was many times longer.

Official practice is held on the Friday before the race, allowing all day Saturday to prepare for the 10-lap event, which takes more than six hours to run, but most drivers are out during the days before practice trying to learn the way round, trying out their cars and generally getting into the spirit of the Targa Florio.

Denis Jenkinson was our famous Continental Correspondent for more than 40 years.