56th Targa Florio

A Ferrari win

The 56th Targa Florio was held on May 21st over the traditional mountain circuit of the Little Madonie in Sicily, and in spite of numerous alarms and excursions and the wailings of "dismal jimmies" it went off as always in clouds of dust and excitement for the Sicilians, who are only able to enjoy first rate racing once a year. The Autodelta team of Alfa Romeo put everything they had into this year's event, determined to dominate it with a sweeping victory, even to the extent of missing the 1,000-kilometre races at Monza and Spa-Francorchamps, in order to concentrate on training and testing for the Sicilian event. They entered four of their latest tubular-framed 33TT3. models, with the gearbox assembly between the V8 four-cam engine and the rear axle, and gathered a formidable force of drivers for this rugged open road event round the 72-kilometre circuit, which had to be covered eleven times. They were paired off as follows: Vaccarella/Stommelen, de Adamich/Hezemans, Elford/Van Lennep, Galli/Marko, all eight being quick, adaptable drivers for this sort of event.

After a certain amount of indecision by Enzo Ferrari the Maranello factory finally decided to send one 312P Prototype 3-litre flat-12 sports car, and to drive it he nominated Arturo Merzario, the reserve driver of his sports car team, and Sandro Munari, whom he borrowed from the Lancia rally team, the rally driver having his first go in a 3-litre sports car, but not his first drive in the Targa Florio, having driven in it in previous years in a Lancia Fulvia. The regular Ferrari sports car drivers such as Ickx, Regazzoni, Peterson and Schenken showed no great interest in tackling the Targa Florio, though Redman would have gone if required, and the single Ferrari entry was more a token of goodwill towards the Sicilians by Enzo Ferrari, a gesture he has made many times in the past, especially in the days of the Siracusa Grand Prix.

The overwhelming superiority of the Alfa Romeo force left little doubt about the outcome of the race in the minds of the Alfa Romeo fans, but for the whole eleven laps they were completely disillusioned for the lone Ferrari set the pace, and led for all but two laps. The depression set in after practice, when Merzario made fastest lap, ahead of the four Alfa Romeos, there being no one else in the running, for the rest of the enormous entry list comprised private owners with Lola and Chevron 2-litres and GT cars, mostly Porsche 911 models. After Merzario had done the first three laps, which included a quick refuelling stop up in the mountains at Bivio Polizzi, he handed over to Munari, during which time Marko was in the leading Alfa Romeo and he took the lead during laps 4 and 5, but the next refuelling stop and driver change saw Merzario go ahead of Galli, helped by the Alfa Romeo driver having a spin and losing quite a lot of time. Munari did two more laps in the Ferrari, without losing the lead, and Merzario took over for the last two. Due to the different team factors Marko was already in the Alfa Romeo when the Ferrari made its last stop and he began closing the gap dramatically. As the two cars started their last lap there was only 39 seconds difference in their times, though 1 min. 39 sec. on the road, due to the interval starting times. In a desperate chase Marko made fastest lap on the last lap, but failed to catch the Ferrari by a mere 16.9 sec. one of the closest-run Targa Florios for many years.

The rest of the Alfa Romeo team were never in the picture, for Elford had his engine blow-up in a big way on the opening lap, and Vaccarella's engine went sick as he ended the third lap, and though Stommelen took over the car it was only to drive it the few kilometres from the start to the Autodelta garage in Cerda. The last of the four cars from Milan was in third place for most of the race, but neither de Adamich nor Hezemans could match Galli or Marko, let alone the winning Ferrari.

While factory participation was at a pretty low ebb for this year's race, and no works or works-assisted Porsches were entered, the entry was as large as ever, a total of 76 cars starting the race, so that the vast crowds scattered all over the mountains had their share of fast cars and noise, in this once-a-year classic road race. — D. S. J.