An Exciting Race
Sicily, May 5th.
The Targa Florio is a form of motor racing that at one time was the normal thing but is now unique, and drivers and spectators either like it or hate it. If you like it then you return to Sicily every year in the spring for Targa Florio time; if you hate it then you go on running in your sprint races round an aerodrome or in a park. I am happy to be one of those who likes the Targa Florio for I think there is nothing to beat racing on public roads; I like races to be difficult and arduous, and I think a racing driver should have to use more than just skill and judgment in order to win races. For me the Targa Florio is more than just a motor race, for it involves motoring the whole length of Italy to get to it and once you get south of Pescara or Rome the motoring becomes of a different world and you can really enjoy a car that has good cornering, a good gearbox and good 2nd and 3rd gear acceleration.
When the Targa Florio was in its early days Palermo was the centre of activity for competitors, even though it was an hour’s drive out to the starting area just below the village of Cerda, but in recent years competitors have taken over the seaside village of Cefalu, which is only 15 minutes from the starting area. Cefalu has but two hotels and the Ferrari team were centred on one and the Porsche team on the other, with a sprinkling of private-owners at both, so that lunch at one hotel and you came away convinced that Ferrari would win the 47th Targa Florio and supper at the other and you felt certain Porsche would win. To be unbiased one should have put up a tent between the two hotels, but the fever and excitement of Targa Florio week is such that you cannot stay unbiased and you just have to join in on one side or the other. You might be standing about outside the hotel when “Yeooww” and a Ferrari goes up the road dodging in and out of the Lambretta three-wheeled carts and Fiats, and as the sound of the V12 engine disappears a shattering noise comes from the garage under the hotel as an 8-cylinder Porsche is started up, while standing in the car park are GTO Ferraris, Porsche Carreras, Giuliettas and Abarths. Targa Florio week is for motoring enthusiasts, of that there is no question.
This year the race was open to Production G.T. cars, Prototype G.T. cars, and 2-litre Sports cars, and the main issue lay between works Ferraris and works Porsches, with interesting competition among the various classes. In the 1,300-c.c. G.T. class the inevitable Alfa-Romeo Giuliettas were being challenged by five 1,300-c.c. Abarth-Simcas of the latest type with 4-cylinder 2-o.h.c. dry-sump engines, and as some of the Abarths were being driven by drivers who were top of the Giulietta class last year and other regular Giulietta drivers had moved into other classes, it seemed that Alfas were in for a bad time. The 2-litre G.T. class contained two works Porsches, both with 4-cylinder 2-litre Carrera engines, the Strahle/Pucci being an Abarth-bodied Carrera and the Linge/Barth car being a new one with a body as used on the Le Mans coupé with long tapering nose and flat rear window with the roof forming a lip over the back. This new car is in aluminium and looks very business-like and can be considered the 1963 Porsche Carrera GT, although the mechanical components are as on the normal 2-litre Carrera, apart from the use of Weber carburetters instead of Solex. On this car the oil tank was mounted under the rear floor and had a glass panel in the top, “to see when the oil was boiling” as one anti-Porsche spectator remarked. Both of these cars were using Porsche disc brakes, which are series production now.
The other runners in this class were locals with old cars out for a day’s fun, two with Fiat 8V coupés and one with an Alfa Romeo Sprint 1900. The 2 1/2-litre G.T. class was obviously for Lancias’ benefit as it contained four Flaminia Zagato models and an Aurelia Spyder, while the 2 1/2–3-litre G.T. class was a Ferrari benefit, with the exception of an drophead Aston Martin DB2/4 driven by two English amateurs. Favourites in this class were Scarlatti and Bordeu with a GTO, while Bulgari and Grana were having their first race in a GTO, having previously raced a Giulietta. David Piper was entered but his Aintree crash put him out, and Andrew Hedges was driving with a Swiss driver in a GTO.
The first Prototype G.T. class was 850-1,000 c.c. and contained but two Rene Bonnet coupés and a Fiat-Abarth. The little French cars were very nicely finished and very genuine G.T. cars with vast luggage space above the rear-mounted gearbox, the little 1,000 c.c. 4-cylinder 2-o.h.c. Gordini-Renault engine being mounted just in front of the rear axle. In the 1,000-2,000-c.c. class were two works Porsches, both 2-litre flat 8-cylinder-engined cars, basically as used last year but now with a redesigned front half to the tubular chassis frame and having simple double-wishbone and coil-spring independent front suspension, just like any English sports/racing car. The rear-mounted air-cooled flat 8-cylinder engine is giving the sort of b.h.p./litre one would expect from a new design, which means a total of around 230 b.h.p., and drives through a 6-speed gearbox to the independently-sprung rear wheels, the wishbone and coil-spring rear end being as last year. Reverse gear is housed in an extension on the end of the gearbox and is selected by a separate lever by the side of the driving seat, operating a Bowden cable, while the central gear-lever controls the six forward speeds.
Bonnier and Abate were driving the coupé version and Maglioli and Baghetti the open car, this latter car having fibreglass engine cover, doors, and front cover over the tank and spare wheel. Also in this class were two Rene Bonnet coupés with oversize Gordini-Renault engines, and two Downton Engineering-sponsored B.M.C. Mini cars. One was as used in the Targa Florio last year but with an oversize engine, and was driven by Cahier and Slotemaker, and the second was a “Twinny Minny” being Downton’s version of a Mini bodyshell with an engine at each end and four-wheel drive, the only connection between front and rear being the gear-change mechanism. A large scoop on the right, just in front of the rear wheel, took air in across the rear engine to the normal Mini layout of radiator and fan, but with a larger radiator element, and the air then exuded from a rearward-facing scoop in front of the left rear wheel. An ingenious device but it weighed just over 17 cwt., which is only 2 cwt. less than a good GTO Ferrari, and it was difficult to see where Prototype G.T. came into it. Nevertheless it was fun and greatly admired for its audaciousness, and was driven by Whitmore and Frere.
The 2,000-3,000-c.c. Prototype class contained but two Ferraris, both being rear-engined V12-cylinder, 5-speed, 250P models as raced at Sebring and tried at the Le Mans test weekend. The drivers were due to be Surtees and Parkes and Vaccarella and Mairesse, but there was a reshuffle before the race began. S.E.F.A.C., or what we call Scuderia Ferrari, entered these two cars and a third one for two drivers with the “non-de-plumes” of “Gamma” and “Alcione,” but neither this car nor the drivers materialised. The last class was for old-fashioned sports cars from 1,000-2,000 c.c. and this allowed Ferrari to enter a V6-cylinder single o.h.c. per bank, 2-litre rear-engined car, as used to win the Mountain Hill-climb Championship last year, to be driven by Scarfiotti and Bandini. A similar car was entered privately by Lualdi and Bini and the only obvious difference between these 2-litre sports cars and the 3-litre V12 Prototype G.T. cars seemed to be in the fact that the cockpits of the prototypes were lined with carpet and rubber mats! Also in the sports class was a 2-litre Cooper-Climax Monaco driven by the two English clubmen Wilks and Epstein and a Porsche Spyder driven by two Sicilian drivers, and an old Ermini sports car fitted with a Giulietta engine and gearbox.
Of this miscellaneous entry some were out to win, some to finish and others just for the fun of driving on open roads and belting flat-out through small towns and villages with the police on their side for once. Of the potential winners the issue lay between the 3-litre Ferraris and the 2-litre Porsche 8-cylinders, with the 2-litre V6 Ferrari an ever-present menace, while always close on hand were going to be the 2-litre Porsche Carreras and the GTO Ferraris.
Practice was officially on Friday, but all the week there was a stream of cars circulating round the 72-kilometre circuit, mostly private cars or hire cars, but occasionally one of the racing cars or a hack car could be seen. The Ferrari drivers were planning to use the original V12 rear-engined car as a practice hack, this being the prototype of the Prototypes, but while Vaccarella was driving it a petrol pipe broke and it caught fire and was extensively damaged, so the rest of the team had to revert to hire cars. The works Porsche team were more fortunate as they had a Super 90 and a 2-litre Carrera for their use.
On Friday, when the roads were closed and all the police, army, straw bales and barriers were in position, it was bright and sunny and cars were sent off at intervals from the starting area. Most of the entry managed two laps, one for each driver, quite a lot completed three laps, some completed four and one Giulietta actually managed five. The Ferrari team were in more trouble as Vaccarella had recently been involved in a road accident in Palermo and had lost his driving licence, so the organisers could not let him take part in the race. He was to have driven the 250P number 172 with Mairesse, so after the Belgian had done two laps Scarfiotti took it over. Meanwhile Surtees had set off in the other 250P and was hardly out of sight of the pits when the engine broke, so that was the end of his practice and Parkes did not have a drive. Three of the GTO Ferraris were in trouble for Andrew Hedges crashed his borrowed car after a few miles, Bordeu also crashed his rather extensively, and another one had a brush with a stone wall but was still drivable. Saturday was spent sorting out the practice troubles and doing final preparations for the 8 o’clock start on Sunday morning.
There are many ways of watching the Targa Florio, all of which are enjoyable and have their individual fascinations. You can sit in the Press stand, from where you get a view of the start, a distant view of the pits and can see the cars taking the fast left-hand bend through the starting area; here you sit among journalists of many nationalities, many of them regular followers of motor racing, so that it is like a pleasant but noisy international club. Following the race becomes a matter of figures, times and scoreboard facts. Alternatively you can spend the time in the pits, where there is always feverish activity, shouting and yelling, and cars coming and going, but the race as such becomes a static one for you tend to follow it by conversation with drivers and team members.
A further method is to drive round the circuit very early in the morning to one of the villages or to the emergency pit depot halfway round the circuit, or to merely pull off the road at some isolated spot. If you go to one of the numerous army radio cars stationed round the circuit you can hear what is happening at the start and if you go to the temporary depot in the mountains you are on the spot if there is any drama during the race and there is a radio car there as well. With lap times around 45 min. and the circuit winding through rugged mountain country it can be appreciated that it is not a simple race to follow, though it is a simple one to watch. This year I decided to watch the race in a different manner and I went to a point at the entrance to the village of Campofelice as a roadside spectator. Walking up the main street just after 7.30 a.m. all was peace and quiet, except that there was a distinct air of something impending. The square was full of people, villagers were sitting outside their front doors, barriers blocked off all the side turnings, and on the walls of the houses were posters saying “During the race keep your front door closed,” “Mamma, look after your children,” “Keep your dogs in the house” and, best of all, “Watch out for the racing drivers.” Definitely something was about to happen to the quiet little village of Campofelice.
Arriving at a fast right-hand downhill bend leading into the main street, I stationed myself in the shelter of a solid stone wall on the outside of the bend and soon got into conversation with a lorry driver from Messina who had driven through the night to watch the race. Talk naturally centred round the Targa Florio and Ferrari versus Porsche and the merits of various drivers, and one of the spectators told how he had seen Moss coasting down through the village when his works Porsche broke its final drive on the last lap of the race in 1961. A policeman proffered the information that his sister was married to a man in Manchester, and a portable radio was playing Acker Bilk records, so that time passed very pleasantly.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the mountains the 55 starters were being lined up in capacity order, the G.T. cars first, then the Prototype G.T. cars, and finally the Sports cars, ready to be sent away at 30-sec. intervals, and at 8 a.m. the first Alfa Romeo Giulietta roared away up the hill towards the village of Cerda. The Ferrari team were being shuffled about as Vaccarella had not received permission to start, so Scarfiotti started in the 250P number 172 and Parkes in the sister car number 174, while Bandini was in the 2-litre sports car, number 190.
On our side of the circuit it was still quiet and peaceful and the early morning sunshine was forcing its way through a heavy mountain haze, and the quiet was broken only by the heart-rending braying of a donkey. If all went well the first car was due to reach us about 40 minutes after leaving the start and every now and then we would consult watches to see how the competitors were getting on, and having a list of the starting times we knew at 8.34 a.m. that the last car was on its way. Suddenly one of the locals said “Listen,” and after a minute or two I could hear the sound of a Giulietta exhaust and the squealing of tyres as the first car came down the mountain side from Collesano. Suddenly it appeared in sight round the side of the hill, accelerated down a short straight, disappeared behind some trees, screamed its tyres round a right-hand bend and then we could see it coming downhill towards us, and at 8.41 a.m, it went by in a cloud of dust and for us the 47th Targa Florio had begun. It was a red Zagato Alfa number 4, driven by Virgilo, and our enthusiastic lorry-driver friend told us how this chap had beaten a GTO Ferrari in a local hill-climb a short while ago.
Another Giulietta followed and then came Arena in the first of the Abarth-Simcas, which was really going and making a shattering noise. One by one the cars screamed by and by noting their time of passage and doing sums on their starting time we soon found the positions in the various classes. Naturally our timing was very amateur, but it was sufficient to get the pattern of the race at our point. Bonnier came by in the coupé 8-cylinder Porsche going extremely well and already ahead of Maglioli in the open 8-cylinder Porsche, having started a minute behind him. Scarfiotti came screaming through in the 250P, followed exactly 30 sec. later by Parkes in the second 3-litre Ferrari, and having started 30 sec. apart it meant they were running dead level. To be sure of the first-lap situation we had to wait for Bandini in the 2-litre and he went by at 9.10 a.m., which meant he was already a minute down on his 3-litre team-mates, but he was only a few seconds down on Bonnier, so for us the order was Scarfiotti and Parkes almost level, Bonnier third and Bandini fourth. Over at the timekeepers the times were going up as the cars finished the first lap and Scarfiotti was leading Parkes by 3.4 sec., having done his standing lap in 40 min. 48. 1 sec., which was a pretty hot pace with the lap record standing at 40 min. 00.3 sec. Bonnier’s opening lap had taken 41 min. 27.3 sec. and Bandini’s 41 min. 59.0 sec., so the pace was certainly being forced.
A count up while waiting for the second lap showed a number of cars had failed to get very far and these included the 2-litre V6 Ferrari of Lualdi, while others had passed us rather slowly, including both Downton Mini cars and all but one of the Lancia Flaminias. The Cooper-Climax was going steadily and the Italian-driven Jaguar E-type was going positively slowly. On the second lap the Abarth-Simcas were really pasting the Alfa Romeos, being 1-2-3 in the class, and among the GTO Ferraris Bulgari was leading Scarlatti by a long way. Bonnier went by again, well on time, and so did Maglioli, but Scarfiotti was overdue and the first Ferrari to appear was 174 with Parkes still driving; Bandini went by, using all the road and still only a few seconds down on Bonnier, and then Scarfiotti came by slowly running on very much less than 12 cylinders. There was trouble in the fuel system and at the end of the lap he stopped at the pits, so the order was now 174, 160, 190, 156, with Parkes, Bonnier, Bandini and Maglioli still driving. In spite of the trouble, 172 finished lap two in fifth place, just ahead of Bulgari who was leading all the G.T. cars on his first drive in a Ferrari, being nearly 30 sec. ahead of Linge in the works 2-litre Carrera Porsche. Parkes had gained quite a bit over Bonnier on the opening lap, but now the Swede was really in his stride and on the third lap was holding the Ferrari. The sick Ferrari was got going again and Mairesse took over but it was a long way back now, and on lap four the first two cars made pit stops, Abate taking over the Porsche and Surtees the Ferrari.
As they came by us on this fourth lap the Porsche was 1 min. 13 sec. ahead of the Ferrari on the road, and having started 2 min. 30 sec. ahead, it meant that Surtees was now in the lead by 1 min. 17 sec., and by the end of the fourth lap the Ferrari was leading the Porsche by 1 min. 30 sec. However, Bandini had not stopped at the pits so this allowed him to gain ground and get between the big Ferrari and the Porsche, but it would not stay that way as he was due to stop and hand over to Scarfiotti. Anything can happen in the Targa Florio and on lap five Surtees went off the road and split the Ferrari fuel tank, so that was that, and Abate now took the lead as the 2-litre Ferrari had made its pit stop. The second of the 250P Ferraris retired at the pits as the fuel feed trouble had developed into a petrol tank lead, so the order was now Abate/Bonnier (Porsche), Scarfiotti/Bandini (Ferrari), and Maglioli still in the open 8-cylinder Porsche in third place, while pit stops had allowed the Porsche Carrera of Linge/Barth to get into fourth place ahead of the Bulgari/Grana Ferrari GTO. In the small G.T. class two of the Abarth-Simcas had blown up, but “Kim”/Biscaldi in the third one were still leading comfortably, until Biscaldi went off the road, giving the class back to the Alfas.
The whole aspect of the race had changed and our interest now lay between cars 160 and 190, which had started 6 min. apart, so it was a simple matter to put a stop-watch on them and see how the gap was. While waiting for the two 2-litre cars to come by the scene was suddenly enlivened by Whitmore arriving in a full-blooded power-slide in the “Twinny-Minny.” Previously it had been driven very sedately by Frere who was trying not to use up its podgy little tyres, nor let it overheat, so that it was all rather dull, and now it seemed that Whitmore had said “Let’s have some fun, even if it doesn’t last out the race.” On the sixth lap Abate was leading on the road, having caught and passed the last of the early starters, and 6 min. ticked by and there was no sign of Scarfiotti, but at 7 min. 13 sec. he came storming down the hill, visibly faster than the Porsche but the right-hand headlamp and mudguard were all crumpled where he had struck a stone wall. The car was going all right and he was out to make up for his mistake and at the end of the lap he was only 1 min. 05 sec. behind the Porsche. Abate now came in for a routine pit stop and to hand back to Bonnier, so Scarfiotti gained more time and as they went by us on lap seven the gap was 5 min. 23 sec., so Scarfiotti was now leading Bonnier by 37 sec., but he still had to make a final pit stop whereas the Porsche was now going non-stop through to the finish. Baghetti had now taken over from Maglioli and was third, and the Bulgari/Grana Ferrari GTO was fourth, just a sec. ahead of the Linge/Barth Porsche Carrera.
Scarfiotti was really wound up now and on lap eight Bonnier went by us driving very fast, and using the Porsche to the full; stop-watches clicked and well before 5 min. had passed we could hear the raucous exhaust of the Ferrari round the back of our hill, and at 5 min. 12 sec. Scarfiotti screamed by, using all the road and some of the gutter as he went down the main street of Campofelice, with the crowds urging him on. He had 48 sec. lead over the Porsche but was due to make a pit-stop and hand over to Bandini at the end of this lap. With slowing down for the pits his official lead at the end of lap eight was 54.8 sec. and at this point, which was nearly 2 p.m., one of the spectators produced a portable radio and we heard a direct broadcast from the pits which told us that Team Manager Dragoni had put Mairesse in the Ferrari instead of Bandini. There were groans all round when we heard this, for though very fast Mairesse gets over-excited and we all felt that Bandini could have coped with the situation satisfactorily. At 2.46 p.m. Bonnier went by, going as well as ever, but rain clouds were gathering and there had already been a few spots, so it might well already be raining on other parts of the circuit. At precisely 5 min. 12 sec. after the Porsche had gone by, Mairesse went by in the Ferrari, which meant that he had already regained the time lost at the pit-stop and was leading by 48 sec., so we all took back what we had said and kept our fingers crossed that Willy would not “drop it,” especially as it was now beginning to rain. Baghetti, who had been in third place, was now overdue and he eventually went by coasting in neutral, his gearbox having broken and left him with only 1st gear, so the Bulgari/Grana Ferrari GTO was now third overall, followed by the Linge/Barth Porsche Carrera.
With only one lap to go and the issue still in doubt I began to return down the main-street, and was in the middle of the town, on a slippery right-hand bend when Bonnier went by for the last time, still driving splendidly in spite of being in trouble with his gearbox. As the seconds ticked by the tension mounted and the rain drizzled down; 5 min. had gone and we could not hear the Ferrari and everyone groaned for it looked as though Mairesse was in trouble; 5 1/2 min. went by and still no Ferrari, 5 min. 45 sec. and still no sound. Only 15 sec. to go and it would mean the Porsche was leading, and then we heard it and at 5 min. 56.5 sec. the Ferrari roared by, headlamps ablaze, and the crowds waved and cheered Mairesse on to victory. With only a 4.5-sec. lead and 10 kilometres still to go the position seemed hopeless, for clearly Bonnier was outdriving Mairesse on the slippery roads. The only hope was the 4 1/2-kilometre bumpy straight before the final bends, for in the rain it was going to require bravery not skill to hold a car at full-throttle along that straight, and Mairesse is one of the bravest. Hurrying back to my car I prepared to drive round to the finishing area as soon as the roads were open, to find out the results of this exciting race. Meanwhile an equally close race was going on for third place for Maurizio Grana, driving the GTO Ferrari, was being very cautious and making sure of finishing this time, for last year he went off the road on the last lap while leading his class, so consequently the burly Linge was gaining ground and took third place in the last few kilometres.
At the finishing line Bonnier arrived safe and sound, but with his gearbox in a sick state, and everyone had to wait 6 min., which was the difference in starting times between the Porsche and the Ferrari, to see if the Ferrari was the winner. The 6 min. went by and no Ferrari appeared, so the Porsche of Bonnier/Abate was the winner, and at 6 min. 11.6 sec. the Ferrari appeared, but it had its engine cover trailing along behind like a vast air-brake. On the final bends after the long straight poor Mairesse had spun and clouted a stone bollard with the tail and the impact had sprung the catches and broken the safety strap, allowing the whole tail to hinge open, and he drove into the finish to lose by a mere 11.6 sec. after almost seven hours of racing.
Only 28 of the 55 starters were still running at the end, some healthily, others sick, some being driven fast, others slowly, but to finish a Targa Florio is no mean feat and many famous drivers and famous cars have started but failed to finish, for the Targa Florio has always been a battle between man and his machine against the natural difficulties of the 72-kilometre Circuit of the Madonie, and I know I am not alone in hoping it will always be that way.—D. S. J.
Five Lancias started and five finished, which speaks highly of the Turin firm’s reliability.
Amazing fellow Bonnier, drives very badly one week, and brilliantly the next; he certainly always shines on the Targa Florio circuit.
The works Ferrari team drivers Parkes, Surtees and Mairesse are now equal at one crash each, Parkes doing his at Sebring.
A lot of familiar faces were missing from the Targa Florio this year, Phil Hill, Gurney and Graham Hill, to name a few.
Abate lapped in 41 min. 16 sec. and 41 min. 19 sec., which was consistent and fast and a good relief driver for Bonnier, who did seven out of the ten laps.
Baghetti did his last lap and a half with only 1st gear, coasting down the hills in neutral as much as possible, but he finished.