Ferrari Wins But Porsche The Moral Victors
PALERMO, SICILY, May 11th.
WITH all the flap-doodle in Italy about racing on the public roads, the Sicilians were quick to profit from the suppression of the Mile Miglia and Vicenzo Florio and his organising committee did some valiant work in their efforts to hold the Targa Florio on its traditional mountain circuit. Not only were they successful but they also got the race inscribed as Italy’s contribution to the Sports-Car Championship. Naturally, all this was achieved in a hurry and the change of date from June 8th to May 11th left little time for manufacturers to make full preparation for the race. However, it was surely better to hold the Targa Florio in a rush than not at all!
Now in its 42nd year, the Targa Florio has always presented one of the greatest challenges to those who profess to be racing-car constructors and racing drivers, and since its inception in 1906 it has been essentially a race of stamina of man and machine against the fantastic mountain roads of Sicily. That strange island, seemingly cut off from the rest of the world, was on its best behaviour this year for there was not a cloud in the sky, the blossoms were at their most colourful, the rugged mountains were looking most attractive in the brilliant sunshine, and the legendary bandits were at peace with the world. Cavv. Vicenzo Florio is a great believer in motor racing being a tough sport and while the rest of the world sees fit to reduce Grand Prix races to a mere two hours or 300 kms., he remained faithful to the old idea of real men’s motor racing. The Targa Florio was to be run over 1,000 kms, on the mountain circuit, a total time of over 10 hours of motor racing for solidly-built sports cars, no ” milk-and-water ” stuff for Florio. This meant 14 laps and each lap measured 72 kilometres, and in that distance there is only one straight and level road, and that is six kilometres long; the rest of the 66 kilometres (41 miles) being up and down the most fantastic mountain roads imaginable and over surfaces that would be considered ” test-pieces ” at the Lindley proving grounds. Some idea of the severity of the Targa Florio course can be gained from the fact that it takes about 1½ hours to do a single lap in a touring car and the lap record, held by Stirling Moss driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR in 1955 was 43 min. 07.4 sec., a speed of 100.180 k.p.h. (62 m.p.h.). In the past the Targa Florio has been over 8 or 10 laps, and, as in the Mile Miglia, drivers considered it a point of honour to drive single-handed, but this year over 14 laps Florio made the concession of permitting two drivers and limiting any one spell of driving to seven laps.
Such a circuit is not possible to close for the purposes of practice and drivers had to learn the circuit and try the racing cars amongst the burly-burly of everyday peasant life in the mountains. Most people used hire-cars for reconnaissance laps and there were some very secondhand-looking Millecento Fiats returned to the owners by the time race day arrived. The Scuderia Ferrari had an old hack sports car in circulation, with a 24-plug, three-carburetter V12 engine with single o.h.c. to each bank, forerunner of the current single-cam ,3-litre V12 with 12 plugs and six carburetters. This hack machine covered some 40 laps or more in the hands of the six team drivers and while it gave no trouble at all mechanically it was in a sorry state for nearly everyone had some sort of accident during the week preceding the race. The score was something like—a dog, a horse, a bicycle, a taxi, a brick wall and a rock face, and after each incident the body was beaten out and off it went again. For the race they had four cars, all 3-litre V12-cylindered models with the classic Faired single o.h.c. layout to each bank of cylinders. The drivers were paired Musso/Gendebien, Hawthorn/von Trips, Collins/Phil Hill, Munaron/Seidel, the first pair having a smooth-contoured front body cowling with slats for air to the brakes, while the others had the new Testa Rossa type of body with large spaces between the wheel fairings and the nose cowling. The last-named pair had a special arrangement of experimental Weber carburetters with the choke tubes inclined steeply to one another and crossing inside the casting, giving a more straight flow down the inlet ports. Each pair of chokes formed a separate casting, as on the normal engine, there being six separate carburetter bodies filling the vee of the engine. This car had right-hand drive, as had that of Collins/Hill, while the other two had left-hand drive.
In obvious opposition to this imposing array of Ferraris was a lone Aston Martin DBR1/300 driven by Moss/Brooks, and while the former knew the circuit well the latter had to set about learning it. As practice car they had one of the Silverstone 3.7-litre cars, the whole team flying direct to Sicily front England in a chartered York aircraft.
These five cars were clearly the favourites for the race, being the Giants, but bearing in mind the fantastic nature of the circuit one could not overlook the 1,500-c.c. class, especially as it was made up of Osca and Porsche, two notably solid types of car. From Stuttgart came the latest space-frame RSK model, with oil-cooler incorporated in the surface of the nose, thus needing no opening in the front of the car, low-pivot swing-axle rear end, of course, and the latest version of the classic Porsche trailing-link i.f.s. in which the geometry is such that the wheels lean in towards the corner 1½ deg. when they are turned. In view of the heat of the Sicilian sun the surface oilcooler was supplemented by a block-type cooler alongside the driving seat, with an air scoop under the car. Backing up this latest Porsche was a normal Spyder RS and these two cars were to be shared between three drivers, Behra, Barth and Scarlatti, the last taking the place of Maglioli, who was not fully recovered from his accident last year. An additional entry from Stuttgart was a very hot Carrera coupe with the latest Spyder engine, with twin ignition distributors driven off the crankshaft, Spyder brakes, aluminium doors, and hinged lids on engine and luggage space, and Perspex windows. This car had been used in the Greece hill-climb the week before and Engineer Hilt had driven it by road from Athens to Palermo, which is quite a journey to do in three days. It was to be driven by von Hanstein and a local driver named Pucci. The Osca opposition comprised three 1,500-c.c. cars, a 1958 model driven by Colin Davis/de Tomaso and two 1957 models in the hands of Cabianca/Bordoni and Luigi Mantovani/Scarfiotti.
The rest of the 41 starters was made up of various private owners with Ferraris, Maseratis, Fiat 8V, Aurelias, Giuliettas and 1,100-c.c. Oscas, and at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning the cars lined up behind the starting line in order of engine size, with the Gran Turismo cars in front. At 6.30 a.m. the first car was away and the rest followed at 40-sec. intervals, all that is except Boffa in his 200S Maserati as a half-shaft broke as he let in the clutch. The five big works cars set off in the order Collins, Moss, von Trips, Munaron, Musso, and then everyone at the pit area sat down to await the arrivals at the end of the opening lap. One would have thought that the first lap would have been used to warm up to conditions, but Behra managed to spin the RSK Porsche, without damage, Davis and Cabianca were going very fast, Moss went off the road and buckled a wheel, having to fit the spare, and Musso was only a few seconds off the lap record, while Trips stove in the front of his Ferrari but carried on with bits of aluminium trailing. Moss was in 10th position when he eventually arrived and he went straight to the Aston Martin pit, for the crankshaft damper had cracked. After more than 25 minutes it was finally removed completely and Moss went back into the race like a bullet. The order on lap one was Musso, Collins, Cabianca, Davis, Behra and Trips, so the danger of the little cars was already present. By the end of lap two Davis had pulled out the stops and taken third place, being just behind Behra on the road, having started 40 sec. in arrears. The Aston Martin was really going now, timed at 233 k.p.h. along the brief straight, and Moss came through the curves by the pits right on the limit in a wonderful series of slides. On lap three Davis overdid things and hit a bridge, bending the front of the Osca, but bent it straight and carried on, only to have an oil pipe split before the end of the lap; so he stopped before he wrecked the engine. Trips had been making up time since his slight accident and was now in third place, while Behra was well in his stride and had come up to fourth place with a lap in 45 min. 21 sec., compared with Trips in 44 min. 18 sec., Collins in 43 min. 35 sec. and Musso, now very close to the record, with 43 min. 18 sec. Moss was still a long way behind on the road, of course, but he was driving with that inspired brilliance he can show when he is “up against the odds.” Before he arrived at the end of lap three Scarlatti had handed the RS Porsche over to Barth and Collins had given over to Hill, and then Moss appeared, taking the pits curve in one long seemingly uncontrollable slide and roaring off up into the mountains again on lap four with dust and gravel flying in all directions. A new lap record came as no surprise at all, but the time was staggering – 42 min. 19.6 sec., almost a minute faster than Musso and 47 sec. faster than the 300SLR record.
On the next lap Musso was timed at 251 k.p.h. over the flying kilometre (approximately 156 m.p.h.), and he, Trips and Munaron all stopped at the pits for fuel and to hand over to Gendebien, Hawthorn and Seidel, respectively. The Porsche Carrera came limping in with apparent fuel starvation but Pucci had merely turned the fuel tap the wrong way, not being able to read German. It was filled up and von Hanstein went off, leading all the G.T. ears and the private sports cars. Cabianea handed over his Osea to Bordoni and Mantovani failed to appear, but then Moss-came by again, going as fast as ever. Another record lap, this time in 42 min. 17.5 sec., a speed of 102.147 k.p.h. (approximately 63.5 m.p.h.), but that was too much for the Aston Martin and during lap five the gearbox/differential unit succumbed and its race was over, with poor Brooks never even sitting behind the wheel. The fastest time on lap five was Hill with 44 min. 37 sec. but Behra was only 2 sec. slower, a remarkable time for a 1,500-c.c. car, but he then handed over to Scarlatti, lying in third position, so that although the Aston Martin had broken up, the four Ferraris were not going to have an easy walk-over. On the sixth lap Hill went into a ditch, a very easy thing to do on the Targa Florio course, and ruined a front wheel and tyre and bent a rear one, as well as bending the steering a bit. After a big struggle he got the car back on the road, fitted the spare and limped on to the Ferrari depot out in the mountains, stopping to have a new rear wheel fitted. At the end of the lap he came into the pits and Collins took over, the car now lying in fifth position behind Musso/Gendebien, Behra/Scarlatti, von Trips/Hawthorn and Cabianea/Bordoni, the remaining works Ferrari being sixth, neither Munaron nor Seidel being able to keep pace on their first works drive. On lap seven things reached a comparatively steady gait, except that Collins went by the pits making signs that he thought his Ferrari no longer steered properly after Hill’s modifications, and on lap eight Gendebien, Hawthorn and Munaron handed back to their co-drivers, the cars being refuelled and the rear wheels changed while Scarlatti came in with the RSK Porsche and gave it back to Behra and Bordoni returned the lone 1,500-c.c. Osca to Cabianca.
Thanks to Hawthorn lapping faster than Scarlatti the Porsche had dropped back to third place and was 3¼ min, behind the Ferrari, but with Behra back at the wheel there was a chance this could be altered. After less than an hour’s rest Scarlatti relieved Barth on the normal RS Spyder, on lap 10, and Hill took back his bent Ferrari still in fifth place. On lap 11 Behra really pulled out the stops and got round in 44 min. 32 sec., but Trips was not hanging about so the Porsche made up no ground. Meanwhile the leading Ferrari was in trouble, for Musso suddenly lost all his brakes, the fluid having leaked out of the reservoir. He was 4 min. overdue when he arrived at the pits, but still in the lead, having come clown most of the hills in bottom gear. The system was refilled with fluid and as no obvious leaks could be found Gendebien set off still nearly 3 min. ahead of the second car, which was the Trips/Hawthorn Ferrari. Behra was now really in his stride and reeled off lap 12 in 44 min. 25 sec., and as Trips took 47 min. 22 sec. this put the Porsche only 1 min. behind the Ferrari, and as the Maranello car stopped at the end of the lap for fuel and for Hawthorn to take over the gap became even less. Behra covered lap 13 in 44 min. 29 sec., compared with Hawthorn’s 46 min. 34 sec– so the Porsche was now firmly in second place and as the Ferrari started its last lap it was urged on to greater efforts. It was no use, for though Hawthorn responded with a final lap in 44 min. 34 sec. there was no holding Behra, who was flinging the little RSK Porsche round the mountains in the most hair-raising manner and clocked 44 min. 17 sec, for the last round, to finish a fantastic second place to the Musso/Gendebien car, which had been driven brilliantly in first place, throughout the race.
A race is never won until it is finished and this is particularly true of the Targa Florio for anything can happen on the last lap, and while Ferrari and Porsche were enjoying first and second places they had other cars in trouble. Seidel was in a certain fourth place on the last lap when he locked the rear wheels going into a corner and went off the road. He got back again but did not realise he had cracked the sump and 20 kilometres before the finish the engine went up solid. Scarlatti in the RS Porsche, lying sixth, was on lap 14, his 11th in total, when a drive shaft broke 30 kilometres from the finish. Although Ferrari had led throughout the race Aston Martin set up a new lap record and Porsche broke up the Maranello monopoly with their brilliant second place.
The remainder of the runners were all left way behind, so hot was the pace of the factory cars, but among the best efforts were two local drivers in a very hot TV Fiat 1100, Tacci and Taormina in a Giulietta Sprint Veloce, and a similar car driven by Todaro and ” Nessuno.” Many were the retirements in this gruelling test of man and machine, and engines, gearboxes and axles broke, while other cars crashed and nearly all of the 13 finishers bore signs of having scraped rocks or run head-on into walls or ditches. At a rough estimate 14 laps of the Targa Florio circuit involves taking some 12,000 corners, so the chances of ” running out of road ” are indeed high.
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