An exciting motor race
Palermo, Sicily, April 30th.
This year the Automobile Club of Palermo took over the organisation of the Targa Florio, carrying on all the splendid traditions of this fantastic old race, and while the circuit and conditions and racing were of the usual wild and woolly nature, the paperwork organisation behind the event was greatly improved. The Little Madonie circuit, of 72 kilometres length (approximately 44 miles), was as difficult as ever, although two corners had been by-passed and a small amount of resurfacing had been done, but relative to the whole circuit this was rather like adding or taking away one straw bale on the average Grand Prix circuit. Also, some of the corners had been edged with steel crash barriers, so that instead of going straight over the edge and down the mountainside, anyone out of control would now bounce back on to the road and go over the edge a bit further on, a mangled wreck before leaving the road. These barriers may have been expected to deter drivers from overdoing things or going too fast, but in fact everyone seemed prepared to go faster than ever.
As with all big sports-car races there was a large entry of mixed cars, from factory Ferraris to 1,000-cc Abarth coupes, and the main feature of the race, for the outright win, lay between the Scuderia Ferrari team, the factory Porsche team and the latest Maseratis being run by the Scuderia Serenissima with factory Mascrati mechanics in support. The Ferrari team comprised two of the latest Tipo 246 rear-engined sports cars, driven by Phil Hill/Gendebien and von Trips/Ginther, and a front-engined V12-cylinder car driven by Ricardo Rodriguez/Mairesse. The rear-engined cars were all-independently sprung based on the new F1 Grand Prix car, using 2.4-litre V6 Dino engines. The fully enveloping bodies on these cars are very wide behind the cockpit, as well as being the height of the regulation windscreen for the full width, so that the curving tail presents a very large surface area, finishing abruptly in a cut-back end. During testing at Monza it was found that this large unbroken area was acting as an aerofoil at maximum speed and generating “lift” so that the rear wheels were almost being raised off the ground. To counteract this phenomenon a “spoiler” was fitted across the extreme rear of the tail, about five inches in height. With this high tail and the large regulation screen, even tall drivers such as von Trips looked lost in the cockpit, and all the drivers had to drive looking through the Perspex screen. The 12-cylinder car, of 3-litres capacity, had the engine mounted at the front like last year’s sports cars, but had a similar body style to the rear-engined cars, and all three had the 1961 Ferrari “twin-nostril” radiator cowling styling. The car driven by von Trips and Ginther was the one used at Sebring, while the Hill/Gendebien car was a brand new one, so new that the conical baffle in the fuel tank filler had been forgotten and on the first try-out the car kept spinning on its own fuel as it slopped out from the side-mounted tanks on to the ground in front of the rear wheels. As far as the racing cars were concerned Ferrari was making a determined effort to win, but the team seemed to have forgotten the drivers for there were no cars available for open-road practice and they had to do all their laps of the circuit in Fiat 600 hire-cars.
In direct contrast, the works Porsche team were tackling the race in a big way, for they had three cars for the race, a spare car for training, an Abarth Carrera GT and two special Carreras and a Super 90 for their drivers to use to learn the circuit. As can be imagined, with a lap distance of 72 kilometres through mountain country, climbing, descending, twisting and turning, passing through three small towns, and having only a few kilometres of straight in its entire length, no driver can claim to know the circuit perfectly and everyone was practising continually before race day. On the Friday before the race there was a short practice period with the roads closed, but it only enabled each car to do two or three laps, so that open-road practice was all important. The racing cars of the Porsche team consisted of an RS61 Spyder with 1,678-cc engine for Herrmann/Barth, a new RS61 Spyder with slightly longer wheelbase (to take the flat-8-cylinder engine later ?) and its 4-cylinder engine enlarged to 1,987 cc. This car had a more penetrating nose shape, much more sharply raked windscreen and a hollow hump over the tail under which sat the intakes for the two downdraught double-choke carburetters, taking air from the rear of this double skin. This new car was for the Bonnier/Gurney team, and apart from having an open cockpit looked very similar to the new RS coupe that appeared at the Le Mans test-day. The third car was another normal RS61 with 1,678-cc engine entered on paper by the Camoradi Team and driven by Moss and Graham Hill, but there was no sign of Casner, or any Camoradi mechanics, and to all intents and purposes this was a third factory entry, being looked after by the works mechanics and organisation, though no doubt the Porsche firm were getting some money from Camoradi for all their efforts, whereas the efforts on the other two cars were costing them money. As a hack car for general use in open-road practice there was an RS61 with 2-litre engine, also being used as a travelling test-bed, and also on this 2-litre 4-cylinder Porsche engine theme were two standard-looking red Carrera coupes fitted with these engines, and also with Porsche disc brakes; the many practice laps put in by the six drivers on these two cars providing useful data for the experimental department. There was a normal Super 90 for general use as well. The factory had an Abarth coupe Carrera which was running in conjunction with Paul Strahle’s identical car; he, Linge, Hanstein and Pucci ringing the changes on these two cars throughout the race. Strahle’s Abarth Carrera was a brand new one, having sold his successful 1960 car, and for recognition purposes the nose of his car was painted orange.
With full support from the Maserati factory the Scuderia Serenissima competed with two Tipo 63 cars, the rear-engined 2.89-litre 4-cylinder cars with the long Perspex windscreens that dodge the Le Mans regulations so that the drivers can look over them rather than through them. The chassis frames on these cars are the last word in space-frame design, using minute tubing of barely half-an-inch diameter, and having independent suspension all round by wishbones and coil-springs. One car was fitted with a headrest and on top of this a sharply angled fin, and this was driven by Maglioli and Scarlatti. It had Borrani alloy disc front wheels and Dunlop alloy disc rear wheels, with Dunlop disc brakes all round. The second, and newer car, driven by Vaccarella and Trintignant, had wire-spoke front wheels, Dunlop rear wheels and no headrest or tail-fin. As a practice car this team had a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT for general use.
Altogether there were 63 entries, but the above list of cars were the main contenders, though in the various classes there was the usual keen competition. In the 1,000 to 1,300-cc GT class there were no fewer than twenty Alfa Romeo Giuliettas, while in the 850 to 1,000-cc sports class there were fifteen entries and an expected battle between the bizarre Le Mans coupe DB of Laureau/Jaeger with 950-cc engine and the new Abarth sports car, with 4-cylinder twin-cam 950-cc engine mounted in front of the rear axle like a Porsche Spyder, and carrying an open 2-seater body. Being driven by Abate and Balzarini it was a force to be reckoned with among the small cars. Of the nine cars in the 1,300 to 2,500-cc GT category the only likely challenge to the two Abarth Carreras was a Zagato coupe Lancia Flaminia driven by Cabianca and Zagato himself. The small entry in the 1,000 to 1,600-cc sports class was an obvious benefit for the irs works Osca 1600 driven by Colin Davis and Scarfiotti; they being backed up by Stanga and Ada Pace with a new Osca coupe. The 1,600 to 2,000-cc sports class was the Porsche playground, with a few old Maseratis to make weight, and in the 2,000 to 3,000-cc sports class consisting of the big Ferraris and Maseratis, there were two GT Ferraris as they were the only large GT entries and a minimum of three was required to form a class.
Sicily was at its best on practice day and under a blazing sun most of the drivers managed to get in a lap on the closed circuit, and Bonnier actually managed two in the new Porsche, while Moss also got in two laps, one in his own car and the other in the hack car. With practically everyone doing a standing start and stopping finish to their practice lap the times recorded were of no importance, though they did indicate that the lap record set up in 1958 by Moss with a DBR1/300 Aston Martin in 42 min 17.5 sec was very likely going to be broken during the race. This few hours of practice was not without its toll, for Mairesse went off the road in the 12-cylinder Ferrari, cheating Rodriguez of a chance to drive, Hanstein crashed the factory Carrera, and the new 1,600-cc coupe Osca was damaged.
Saturday was spent by the Porsche mechanics in fitting a 2-litre engine into the Moss/Hill car, to satisfy Stirling’s desire to have the extra torque of the slightly larger engine, though it did not develop much extra bhp at maximum output. This was a spare unit for the Bonnier car, and another spare Carrera unit had to be put into the works Abarth coupe which was straightened out after Hanstein’s excursion off the road. The number one team car had some different carburetters fitted, to try and improve the pick-up, and Moss asked for the front of his car to be painted yellow so that he could be seen in the rear-view mirrors of cars he was overtaking.
The Scuderia Ferrari spent most of their time straightening out the 12-cylinder car’s bodywork, which they did very well, and Ginther was kept busy doing detailed carburetter tuning on the two rear-engined cars. In the Maserati garage most of the time was spent fitting the car to Maglioli, so that he was comfortable and could see properly.
As is traditional the cars were due to start at 30-second intervals, the Targa Florio being a race against time and the mountains, rather than against rival competitors, and to help them combat the mountains and length of the circuit Porsche had set up a short-wave wireless station part of the way round the course to give pit-signals of the positions at the start of each of the 10 laps. With your fastest rival starting maybe 5 minutes behind you there is no way of knowing your position at the end of a given lap until he has completed his, by which time you are many kilometres away from the pits on the next lap. Mercedes-Benz used this shortwave transmitter system of pit signals in 1955 when they won the race with their 300SLR, but they used a mighty machine capable of transmitting right over the mountains to the far side of the circuit, whereas Porsche were more humble in their radio activity and transmitted only a few kilometres ahead. By 6.30 am fifty-four cars were lined behind the start in ascending order of potency, from a Sprint Veloce Alfa to the Hill/Gendebien Ferrari, and at 7.00.00 hours the first car was away, followed at 7.00.30 hours by the next, 7.01.00 hours the next and so on. With each car having two drivers the decision of who was to do the opening lap rested with team-managers or individual drivers, and much depended on the tactics to be employed during the next seven hours. No driver was permitted to drive for more than seven consecutive laps, and the ten laps could either be shared equally or to any combination that added up to 10 that drivers liked to agree to. With most couples the scheme was for the star driver to start and do four or five laps, then let the second man take over for two or three laps, and then the number one to drive through to the finish, but as with so many facets of the Targa Florio things seldom worked out as simply as that. Gerard Laureau led off in the DB coupe, Carlo Abate in the Abarth 1000, Scarfiotti in the works Osca, the coupe being a nonstarter, and Herrmann, Bonnier and Moss in the Porsche Spyders. Strahle and Linge in the Abarth Carrera S, Vacarella and Maglioli in the Tipo 63 Maseratis, Rodriguez in the 12-cylinder Ferrari and von Trips in the first of the rear-engined Dino Ferraris. Gendebien was all set to start in the last car, but at the last moment he became all temperamental and changed his mind, forcing Phil Hill to leap in the car in a terrible flap and drive off at 7.34 am on schedule in a thoroughly ruffled and bad tempered condition. Before the start the Ferrari team agreed that if anything happened to the Hill/Gendebien car early in the race, they would take over the von Trips/Ginther car, and Gendebien suddenly realised that if he started the race he might break down out in the wilds and Phil Hill would then take over the second car, so he quickly feigned temperament and forced Hill to start!
While all this was happening the Giuliettas were buzzing round the mountains, followed by faster and faster cars and the race was well and truly on. A Giulietta driven by a Sicilian driver running under the pseudonym of “Sand” completed his standing lap in 47 min 48.1 sec, which was a good indication of the pace at which this Targa Florio, the 45th in the series, was going to witness. Strahle was charging along in his Carrera, driving with that hard and determined fashion that suits the Sicilian mountains so well, and his opening lap was 46 min 33.2 sec, while his teammate, Herbert Linge, was a bit slower having been delayed by running into a large dog and crumpling the near-side wing and headlamp. Scarfiotti was going well in the sports Osca, with wishbone and coil-spring independent rear-end, but it was not as stable on corners as could be desired. The little DB coupe and the open Abarth were really in battle, their respective opening laps being in 49 min 05.0 sec and 49 min 02.6 sec, and Herrmann was making no attempt to ward off the big boys, being passed by Bonnier less than half-way round the first lap. Bonnier came roaring through at the end of the first lap to record 42 min 21.8 sec, an incredible time for a standing lap, but his efforts were put to one side by the arrival of Moss in 42 min 18,6 sec, a bare second off his lap record, and this from a standing start with many cars to pass. Nino Vaccarella was doing great things with the Tipo 63 Maserati, even though it was not handling too well, and opened with 43 min 22.0 sec, but Maglioli was nothing like so happy and could only do 45 min 34.2 sec. The Ferrari team were not in their stride on this opening lap, for Phil Hill in a fit of temper was storming past people, bumping them as he went, so that his car already had a crumpled front, and about two-thirds of the way round this opening lap he came charging out of a corner too quickly and went straight off the road, over walls, ditches and rocks and wrote the front of the Ferrari right off. Von Trips was being more cautious and lapped in 43 min 00.2 sec, and Rodriguez did a courageous 43 min 31.8 sec, his first introduction to the car being at the fall of the flag. The outcome of this opening lap was that Moss was leading, closely followed by Bonnier, both in 2-litre Porsches, then came von Trips, Vaccarella, Herrmann and Rodriguez.
On lap two the Porsches really turned on the heat, both Moss and Bonnier breaking the lap record, but not to be outdone, von Trips did also, beating Bonnier but not Moss. On the opening lap the German driver had been put off by being bumped by Phil Hill as the furious Californian scrabbled past him, but he had now got into his stride and turned 41 min 46.4 sec to Moss’ 41 min 36.0 sec. Thanks to the quick opening lap Bonnier was still in second place, but von Trips was closing the gap rapidly. The Giuliettas were still being led by “Sand” and the little sports cars were being led by the DB by only a few seconds. Moss had started 30 seconds behind Bonnier, and by lap three he had caught this up and gone past the Swede and disappeared into the mountains, much to the chagrin of the number one Porsche driver. This third lap of the remarkable Moss was turned in 41 min 09.8 sec, which seemed absolutely impossible, but up in the mountains he was driving so hard that he had time for only a cursory wave of the hand to the Porsche mechanics at their emergency depot half-way round the course, and he had no time to take his eyes off the road and wave to his friends! This was Moss working with all that seriousness that puts him way out in front as a driver, especially when the conditions are tough, the sort of Moss-driving that is never seen on an aerodrome circuit, or in flat-racing. His new lap record was challenged by von Trips who returned 45 min 40.0 sec., while Bonnier had dropped a few seconds to 42 min 00.6 sec, and was still holding second place, but only by 13 seconds now. On lap four Moss went even faster and at the end of the lap he shot into the pits for fuel and to hand over to Graham Hill. In spite of slowing down slightly as he crossed the timing line, he completed his fourth lap in 40 min 58.4 sec, giving him a total running time up to this point of 2 hr 46 min 02:8 sec, so that he was nearly 2 minutes ahead of Bonnier, whose four-lap total time was 2 hr 47 min 52.4 sec. While the Swede went through to do another lap Graham Hill took over the leading Porsche, and von Trips came into the pits with the third-place Ferrari, only 5 seconds behind Bonnier on total time. With Phil Hill having gone out on the opening lap it was decided that Gendebien should take over the remaining rear-engined Ferrari instead of Ginther, and this he did after refuelling. Rodriguez had retired with a damaged rear end and a split fuel tank, after a slight excursion off the road, but the two big Maseratis were still going round unscathed and Vaccarella was in fourth place overall, leading Herrmann in the smaller Porsche quite comfortably.
The Porsche pit-stop was not as quick as it might have been and with Graham Hill being quite unable to match the speed of Moss the leading Porsche took 44 min 27.4 sec for its fifth lap, this time including the pit-stop. The Ferrari was much slicker, and Gendebien was straight off to a hard lap, and including the stop recorded 42 min 38.6 sec, so that on overall time after five laps the Ferrari was only six seconds behind the Porsche, having caught and passed Bonnier. The Moss/Hill car had started the race at 7.28 am and the Ferrari had started at 7.33.30 am so that there was a 5 min 30 sec time differential on the road, and as they set off on their sixth round of the mountains the time differential was 5 min 36.0 sec, so that stop watches were clicking everywhere to follow their progress. Graham Hill was no match for Gendebien on this sort of driving, and though he lapped in 42 min 19.4 sec, including slowing down to come into the pits, Gendebien arrived only 4 min 53.4 sec after the Porsche crossed the timing line, so that the Ferrari led by 36.6 sec, but of course, by the time this gap could be recorded Moss was already on his way again and was throwing the Porsche round the corners in a determined effort to regain the lead. There was really no-one else left in the race apart from these two cars, for they had outstripped all their rivals, and no-one was within striking distance. Moss did the seventh lap in 41 min 56.6 sec, which included the pit-stop to change drivers, but Gendebien replied with 41 min 32.8 sec having gone straight through, so that at the end of seven laps the Ferrari was 1 minute ahead on time. Moss was now leading everybody on the road, having caught all the slower cars that had started before him, and with a clear road was motoring as hard as he knew how to try and widen the time differential between the Porsche and the Ferrari and thus gain the lead.
Up in the mountains by the emergency depot where Ferrari mechanics were standing by with fuel and tools, as were Porsche and Maserati mechanics, ready for trouble, Moss went roaring by and stop-watches were started. There was no doubt that Moss was really at work, for his face was not the relaxed cool visage so often seen, but a grimy and hard-looking face of a man working like never before. He was a study of concentration as he slid the Porsche round the hairpin bends and roared on up the mountains with the 2-litre engine giving off every horsepower it could, and the driver using them all to the utmost. At 4 min and 56 sec after Moss had gone by Gendebien arrived, which meant that Moss had pulled back nearly 30 sec on Gendebien, but that the Ferrari was still leading the race. On this lap, unbeknown to the Scuderia Ferrari team down at the pits Gendebien decided to run his own race and not rely on Team Manager Tavoni, and he screeched to a stop at the emergency depot and yelled for fuel. Thirty-five valuable seconds were lost while three churns of fuel were poured in the tanks, and the Belgian accelerated away up the mountain, intent now on driving through to the finish, but all his lead was gone, and the flying Moss was set to go through nonstop. Back at the pits Moss went by faster than ever as the fuel load lightened, recording 41 min 02.6 sec. Now all eyes were on the watches and five minutes had gone by and Gendebien had not come, then five minutes and thirty seconds, and the Ferrari pit was despairing, for they knew nothing of the unofficial refuelling stop up in the mountains. They had planned for Gendebien to stop at the main pits on this lap and for von Trips to take over, and a mechanic had already gone down the road some way to flag Gendebien into the pits. Exactly 5 min 48.8 sec after Moss had gone by Gendebien arrived, which meant that he was now second and 18.8 sec in arrears, and for some unaccountable reason he obeyed the pit signal and drew in. Naturally, mechanics were confounded when they found the fuel tanks full, and von Trips jumped into the car and roared away while Gendebien explained what he had done. Had he disobeyed the pit signal and gone through non-stop the Ferrari pit would have given birth en bloc, thinking he had gone mad and was going to run out of fuel out in the mountains, but had the car kept going they would have realised that he must have stopped at the emergency depot. and forgiven him. As it was he confused things completely by stopping as requested, but von Trips was out to do something about the situation.
Moss was really pushing the Porsche along now and half-way round lap nine he was 1 min 53 sec ahead of the Ferrari, and completed the lap in a new record time of 40 min 41.8 sec, but von Trips was not hanging about and, including the pit-stop, he recorded 41 min 28.4 sec, and both drivers were constantly breaking the old lap record. Moss was away up into the mountains when von Trips started the last lap, and he had reduced the gap to 1 min 05.4 sec and the extra power of the Ferrari was really helping up the steep hills, though the Porsche was gaining through the tight wiggles, and Moss was taking every ounce of power that the 4-cylinder engine could give, whether going uphill plunging down steep descents. At the half-way point on this last lap von Trips had reduced the gap to 48 sec, gaining just over 17 sec on the difficult part of the course, but as they disappeared over the mountains to start the fast descent down through Collesano to Campo Felice, and on to the very fast 4-kilometre straight down by the sea, leading to the final corners of this arduous circuit, it looked as though Moss had the race in the bag, as fast as Porsche supporters were concerned, but equally the Ferrari supporters cheered von Trips on to greater efforts in the hope that he might achieve a miracle and catch the silver Porsche. On time the gap was 48 sec, but on the road it was 6 min 18 sec, remembering the difference in starting times, and in this space of time the third place-man was running, this being Bonnier, who was back in the new Porsche after letting Dan Gurney do two laps. At the finishing line, which is just round a bend at the beginning of the pits everyone was waiting for the sound of the Moss/Hill Porsche and getting ready to start their watches for if von Trips arrived less than 5 min 30 sec after the Porsche he would have achieved the seemingly impossible and beaten Moss. A Porsche was heard approaching but when it arrived there was consternation, for it was Bonnier in the new one and not Moss ! Meanwhile, a few kilometres away, on the sea-level straight, a silver Porsche had coasted to a stop with its crown-wheel and pinion stripped. Poor Moss had asked too much from the transmission and it had let him down a mere seven kilometres from the end of this 720-kilometre race. Meanwhile von Trips was surpassing himself, the Ferrari going like never before and gaining ground all the time. As he howled his way along the straight he saw the stricken Porsche by the side of the road and, remembering how a Porsche had let him down two years ago in this race when leading with only a few kilometres to go, be must have known just how miserable Moss was feeling as he watched the square tail of the Ferrari disappear along the road to certain victory. Once he had seen the Porsche von Trips eased off and took no more chances, but even so his final lap was a new lap record in the incredible rate of 40 min 03.4 sec. When he arrived at the finish and the news of the retirement of Moss in the ultimate minute of the race was known if was difficult to know whether to laugh or cry, whether to commiserate with Porsche or be happy for Ferrari. But. above all else, the Targa Florio had lived up to its reputation of being the hardest And most bitter motor race on the calendar, and von Trips and Gendebien had worked incredibly hard and deserved their win.
This constant struggle between the two leading cars completely overshadowed all the other runners, but there was as much drama going on right through the field. In a single lap of 72 kilometres in something as mundane as a Giulietta Zagato there is invariably enough drama to fill a complete article, when that lap is on the Targa Florio circuit, and a drive round the circuit after the race is over is a heart-stopping experience for the black marks on the road, of skids, spins, near misses, crashes into walls, close shaves, and so on leave you quite limp and the imagination boggling. This year after the race I found an unhappy Colin Davis sitting in his Osca with a crown-wheel and pinion broken on the last lap when a class win was a certainty. Scarfiotti had stopped on the eighth lap with an obscure electrical short, but the mechanics had found this to be nothing more serious than faulty dynamo brushes. Being the only car left in its class Davis set off to do another lap and finish, even though they were over an hour behind schedule. Less than half-way round, the axle had broken and that was that. Not far away Laureau was retrieving the bizarre DB coupe which had broken its gearbox when unassailably in the lead of the small sports-car class, the challenging Abarth 1000 having blown up on lap four. Further round was a 900-cc Osca that had shed a wheel, and a Giulietta in outwardly good condition abandoned by the roadside. The remains of Phil Hill’s Ferrari had been loaded on the transporter with difficulty, and the Centro-Sud Maserati 200SI was awaiting collection by its mechanics. Most of the cars that finished bore signs of contact with walls, or roadside stone blocks, and out of the 54 starters only 19 completed the race, while four more were still running, but too far back to be qualified.
The two Abarth Porsche Carreras had gone like trains, the Strahle car winning the class, having been driven also by Pucci and Linge, and the works car finishing second, haying been driven by Linge, Strahle and Hanstein, in that order. The two Tipo 63 Maseratis had finished but rather slowly, taking fourth and fifth places, the Maglioli/Scarfiotti car stopping in the mountains on he last lap to take on water as it was boiling merrily. The Tipo 60 Maserati of Boffa/ToIodaro had caused some excitement in the mountains by bursting an oil pipe to its radiator, spinning on its own oil and then leaving a trail up to the emergency depot, on which Colin Davis spun and many others went sideways and had hair-raising moments between the stone walls. Like so many Targa Florio races before it the 45th was a memorable one, but when you race for some seven hours over a mountain circuit averaging over 60 mph for the whole 10 laps, when a normal salloon car can hardly reach a maximum of 60 mph for nine-tenths of the lap, it is not surprising that Targa Florio races become memorable.—DSJ.
On the way home after the race Gendebien crashed his hired Fiat 600 and damaged himself, but not very seriously.
It would be nice to see some serious competition from British sports cars or even GT cars in this event.
Sicily may be the last stronghold of bandits in Europe, but it is also the last stronghold of tough motor racing, and long may it stay that way.