Pack of aces
Audi's track warriors pick personal highlights from one of the biggest success stories in modern…
Cefalu, Sicily , May 8th.
The annual battle against the Sicilian mountains and the ten laps of the Little Circuit of the Madonie was once again a Ferrari v. Porsche affair, for the expected onslaught by Ford did not materialise, nor did the lone Chaparral of Phil Hill/J. Bonnier that has been promised for Europe this year. Ferrari entered the open 4-litre 330P/3 for Vaccarella/Bandini, and two Dino 206 models for Parkes/Scarfiotti and Guichet/Baghetti, the former car open with fuel injection engine, and the latter a coupe with carburetter engine. A third car was entered by the Scuderia Sant Ambroeus for Biscaldi/Casoni, this being an open one and running on Firestone tyres, unlike the works cars which were on Dunlop tyres. Of interest to the Ferrari team were two cars in the Prototype class, a GTB and an LM, both with 4-litre production single-cam engines in place of the normal 3.3-litre engines. The Porsche team arrived in force with an impressive array of cars, transporters, travelling workshop and radio communications team for race control. All the Porsches were the new Carrera 6 models as regards chassis and body, but one of them was fitted with a 2.2-litre horizontally-opposed 8-cylinder engine and two of them were 6-cylinders with Bosch port fuel-injection, these three running in the prototype category. There were two factory prepared Group 4 (50 off) Carrera 6 models in the sports category, one driven by Pucci/Arena and the other loaned to the Scuderia Filipinetti for Mairesse/Muller. In addition to these works cars there were five more Carrera 6 cars in private hands, though the green one of de Udy/de Klerk entered by Porsche Cars Great Britain was transferred to the Prototype class as it was brand new and had not been registered for road use, this being a stipulation in the new Group 4 rules. Ferrari had numerous private owners taking part that would give support in the battle against Porsche, and among these were the 275LMs of Epstein/Hawkins, Swanson/ Ennis and Ravetto/Starraba, but in their category was the lone Ford GT40 of Ford-France, driven by Ligier/Greder, which could well upset the overall picture.
As in most big International Sports and Prototype events, British opposition was negligible, apart from class racing amongst the smaller cars, but B.M.C. entered two M.G.-Bs in the sports class, and Healey entered their “dayglow” green Prototype Sprite. There was also a privately-owned Austin Healey 3000 and a privately-owned Sprite, but the latter inverted itself in practice and did not start.
All week unofficial practice and testing took place in glorious sunshine and Sicily was at its best as scrutineering took place at the pits amidst the usual shouting and confusion. Group 4 sports cars had to have number-plates and a log book before being accepted. A lap round the circuit while scrutineering was in progress saw a lot of resurfacing being done, both with shovel and broom, and tar-laying machinery, but the heat of the day was not giving the tar much chance to set properly, nor were the cars that were charging round. In one lap, with pauses here and there to look and listen, a GTA Alfa Romeo of Auto Delta went by at an impressive speed, as did an R8 Renault Gordini being used by the Alpine team for learning the circuit. The lone Bizzarrini of Edgar Bernay was found by the roadside being repaired after an altercation with a Fiat 500, and further on during a roadside pause Mitter went by in the “hack” Porsche 906 and Parkes went by really fast, with screaming tyres, in a Ferrari GTC, the new 4-litre saloon. A Ferrari GTB and an early 250GT also went by, being used for “circuit learning,” and the truly International aspect of the Targa Florio could be seen in the number-plates of cars being used by drivers to learn the course; French, Swiss, German, British, American, Italian and Sicilian all being prominent during the week. The Ferrari enthusiasts of Collesano were out in force, decorating their village with encouraging slogans for Ferrari and his drivers, as well as painting black “prancing horses” on the road, sides of houses and rock faces. The organisers had been round the 44-mile circuit posting up warning notices and of these two of the best were “Don’t throw fruit or paper in the road, it might cause an accident,” and “Sporting types, control your enthusiasm, keep your distance from the corners.”
On Friday, May 6th, there was an official practice session from 9.30 am. to 2 p.m. and, before it started, an anniversary run for old cars, of types that took part in past Targa Florio races, set off to cover the Large Circuit of the Madonie, a 148-kilometre mountain route that was used in the early days of the history of this famous race. This was in commemoration of the 50th race in the series and the survivors arrived back at the end of the practice for this year’s race. The official practice saw a certain amount of consternation, for Guenther Klass in the 2.2-litre 8-cylinder Porsche beat Vaccarella with the 4-litre Ferrari, and Mike Parkes disappeared off the road in a flurry of dust and stones and ended up amongst the trees with a bent Dino Ferrari. Luckily only bodywork and one front suspension was bent and the car was tidied up and made ready for the race. At mid-day on Saturday, when everyone was making final preparations, heavy cloud obscured the island and torrential rain poured down almost without ceasing until after midnight. This caused havoc around the circuit with mud and stones being washed down onto the road, and gangs of labourers had to be rounded up to try and stem the flow.
Sunday morning dawned a bit drier and broken cloud covered the island as the cars lined up for the 8 a.m. start, but there was obviously still plenty of rain in the offing and the roads were very slippery. There were classes for Group 3 (500 off) GT cars, Group 4 (50 off) sports cars, and Prototypes, with capacity divisions in the classes. Cars left at 20-second intervals and the small class of GT cars was dominated by Lancia Fulvia coupes, of which the works-supported Scuderia HF entry of Cella/Marzi was way out ahead. In the over-1,600-c.c. GT class were the two works M.G.s, their opposition being two private 911 Porsches and a slowly-driven Ferrari GTB. With Prototypes limited to “up to 2,000 c.c.” and “over 2,000 c.c.,” the Abarth factory did not enter any 1,300-c.c. prototype models, nor did Alpine, and the French firm concentrated on the Group 4 Production Sports Car class. There were two entries from Alpine and two from Regie Renault, all four being standard coupes. In this class was a 1300 Abarth coupe which Virgilio was driving with terrific speed, his knowledge of the course being obvious wherever anyone saw him in action. The sports-car class 1,300-1,600 c.c. was an all Alfa Romeo category, dominated by the four Auto Delta GTZ coupes driven by Zeccoli/”Geki,” Federico/”Shangri-la,” Pinto/Todaro and Bussinello/L. Bianchi, of which Pinto and Todaro were outstandingly fast. The next group away were the production Carrera 6 Porsches, followed by a mixed group of large cars ranging from the Worswick/Minshaw Austin Healey 3000 to the Settember/Freutel 7-litre Cobra. The prototype 2-litre class saw the Dino Ferraris and the fuel-injection Porsches take off, the Stuttgart cars driven by the pairs Herrmann/Glemser and Mitter/Bonnier, as well as the green Carrera 6 of de Udy, but he did not get far before crashing and wrecking the brand new car. Finally the Klass/Colin Davis 8-cylinder Porsche and the Vaccarella/Bandini P3 left, along with the two experimental production 4-litre Ferraris of Nicodemi/Lessona and Conti/Ventura and the lone Bizzarrini, and all round the course crowds waited expectantly for the first sound of a racing engine echoing through the mountains, while keen Silician eyes scanned the hills for the first signs of tiny moving specks. Due to getting rid of as much of the mud and stones as possible the start had been delayed some ten minutes and up in the mountains at the Bivio Polizzi refuelling depot, where I was stationed acting as emergency fuel and tyre depot for the Hawkins/Epstein Ferrari LM, we heard this news over the Porsche team’s short-wave radio, the ringing tones of von Hanstein’s voice down in the start area coming over clearly. Porsche were controlling their race from the pits and sending information by radio up to Bivio Polizzi so that their drivers could he kept informed of the situation with only half a lap delay. Polizzi being 38 kilometres out from the start.
Although it was not raining where we were, rain clouds could be seen discharging their contents at various points in far distant valleys and beyond mountain peaks, so that it was obvious that conditions were pretty rugged. When the cars began to pass our point they were already mud-spattered, and some did not get as far as us on the opening lap. Cella (Lancia Fulvia) was well out on his own. leading on the road, but Makinen (M.G.-B) was making splendid time, if rather wildly, and had left Hedges (M.G.-B) a long way behind. Then a whole gaggle of raucous Alfa Romeos came by, pushing and elbowing each other and Pinto was already well up and when the Porsches started to arrive Mairesse was leading the class both on time and on the road. Hawkins was a long way behind schedule in the LM Ferrari, his Firestone Grand Prix tyres having very little grip on the slippery Sicilian roads. The Dino Ferraris were driven by Guichet, Scarflotti and Biscaldi, the 6-cylinder Porsches by Herrmann and Glemser, and Scarfiotti was leading this group. Klass was in the 8-cylinder Porsche and Vaccarella in the big Ferrari, and on time at our half-way point the order was Vaccarella, Scarliotti, Mitter and Klass, so the locals were happy. At the end of the lap the situation had changed as much as the weather and road conditions, for Mitter was second, Scarfiotti third, Mairesse fourth, and Klass fifth. A lot of cars were well down on their expected schedules due to the slippery conditions and the rain and mud, and others never arrived at the end of the opening lap. Hawkins stopped to see if some better Firestones could be found, as he was frightening himself silly.
On the second lap Mitter was going really well in the Carrera 6 and by the time he reached us he had a lead over Vaccarella, the big Ferrari proving a real handful in the tricky conditions, for showers were falling at varying parts of the circuit and seldom in the same place twice. Klass had moved up into third place, Mairesse was still going well as was Ligier in the Ford GT40 and Makinen„ with full-lock slides and crossed-arms, was now second on the road behind the smoothly driven Lancia of Cella. At the end of the lap the order remained unchanged and the Mitter Porsche was leading by 21 seconds, much to the distress of the locals. That Mairesse was driving brilliantly could be seen by the way he was overtaking cars that had started before him without being overtaken himself, and he came by us on the third lap in second position on the road behind the flying Fulvia of Leo Cella, and was fifth overall. On this lap the 8-cylinder Porsche stopped by us and took on a lot of fuel, to avoid a stop down in the crowded pit area, where everyone else was due to refuel. This dropped it back to fifth place by the end of the lap, but next time past Polizzi it was well in the lead, the other cars having refuelled at the main pits. Cella came into the Polizzi depot unexpectedly as his Lancia had sprung a leak and he was running out of petrol; someone found him some and he was back in the race and still leading on the road, for Mairesse had stopped to refuel and hand over to Muller. The Biscaldi/Casoni Dino Ferrari was delayed by windscreen wiper trouble and later the Guichett/Baghetti car was to have the same trouble. With most co-drivers having their first spell at the wheel the order at the end of lap 4 was Klass (Porsche 8-cyl.), Bandini/Vaccarella (Ferrari 330P/3), Bonnier/Mitter (Porsche Carrera 6 injection), Parkes/Scarfiotti (Dino Ferrari), Mairesse/Muller (Porsche Carrera 6) and Baghetti/Guichet (Dino Ferrari).
There was no improvement in the weather, although the rain at Polizzi did not develop, but we could see it falling far off across the valleys and hills. Parkes arrived at Polizzi with petrol pouring from a leaking tank and many gallons more were put in the tank and away he went leaving a trail of petrol on the road. The three works Porsches of Glemser/Herrmann, Klass/Davis and Bonnier/ Mitter arrived in a tight bunch and stormed off up the hill nose-to-tail, making a fine sight and sound. Vaccarella was not far behind, and was, in fact, back in the lead on time, and Parkes had been in third place when he stopped. Baghetti also stopped for petrol and the difficult conditions were beginning to take their toll as cars went by with crumpled bodywork or sick engines, and many more did not even come by.
On lap 6 the Muller/Mairesse Porsche was well ahead on the road and had to be taken into consideration in any time calculations for it was always in the first half-dozen in the overall picture. Cella was calling in at the Polizzi fuel depot nearly every lap in order to beg petrol to get back to the pits, and in spite of this he was still leading his class and holding second place on the road. Klass came by in the 8-cylinder Porsche and exactly 1 minute later Bandini arrived, which meant that the Porsche and the Ferrari were dead-heating for the lead as they had started one minute apart. However, Bandini pulled into the depot for a quick refuel, which meant that from that point on the Porsche 8-cylinder was leading, and this was only just over half-distance. The Bonnier/Mitter Porsche was third and as Parkes was overdue this let the Muller/Mairesse Porsche into fourth place. A dishevelled Parkes arrived with an even more dishevelled-looking Dino Ferrari, having been off the road in a big way, wrecking the rear of the car and smashing a wheel. He had fitted the spare and stopped at Polizzi to exchange the broken one for a new one, and the Ferrari mechanics tore a few of the tattered bits of bodywork away from the rear wheels, tried in vain to bang the engine cover down so that it would not wave in the breeze, and Parkes set off again, his only hope being to get back to the pits. The way the car dodged about it looked as if the rear suspension or the chassis were broken and we did not anticipate seeing him come round again. Some while later Biscaldi stopped to exchange a broken wheel and tyre for a new one, having struck something pretty solid. The conditions were taking their toll continuously now, for the Glemser/Herrmann car crashed on lap 6 and the total number of runners was diminishing noticeably.
On lap 7 out at our half-way point there was a depressing lack of runners after Muller had gone by in the Carrera 6 and 8 1/2 minutes passed before Davis went by in the 8-cylinder Porsche, leading the race but all alone; for there was no sign of number 118, the Bonnier/Mitter Porsche, or 230 the Bandini/Vaccarella Ferrari, Or 204 the ParkesjScarfiotti Dino, and 196 the Guichet/ Baghetti Dino was behind time and 210 the BiscaldijCasoni Dino was very late and going slowly. The Targa Florio appeared to have won this year’s battle of men and machines against the Mountains, for Mitter had gone off the road and bent the front suspension of the Porsche and Bandini had been about to pass a GTO Ferrari driven by a local driver when he had collided with it and the big Prototype Ferrari had gone off the road, turning over and wrecking itself against a tree. The GTO had driver signalled to Bandini to “wait” and Bandini had taken it to mean “O.K. go by” as is normal racing practice. He was very lucky to escape with only cuts and bruises and the GTO driver stopped and gave him a lift back to the pits. At our depot we knew nothing of this at the time, except that the big Ferrari was overdue, so imagine our surprise when a crumpled GTO Ferrari stopped and we saw a depressed and slightly-bleeding Bandini in the passenger seat. He told the mechanics what had happened, took a bottle of mineral water from them and the GTO set off for the pits. It was a left-hand-drive GTO which may account for some or the observers seeing it arrive thinking Bandini was driving it ! The race was now a walk-over for the 8-cylinder Porsche, but on lap 8 the left rear suspension upright tore away from the lower wishbone and the wheel folded up under the body and that was the end of its race. The Stuttgart chances were not lost, however, for this let the Muller/Mairesse car into the lead, well ahead of the Guichet/Baghetti Dino Ferrari. Willy Mairesse was driving the closing laps, and he made no mistakes, driving fast and smoothly on the treacherous surtace to bring the works Carrera 6, loaned to the Scuderia Filipinetti for this race, home to win the 50th Targa Florio. On the last lap we had a terrific gale of rain and hailstones at Polizzi and you could see it sweep inland across the course. Poor Ligier, who with Greder had been doing well to keep the big Ford GT40 on the road, was having brake trouble and he crumpled the front end of the bodywork on a wall. He was fourth overall at the time.
For us it was all over, Porsche had won the Targa Florio yet again, Ferrari had stumbled and fallen, the Auto Delta Alfa Romeos had impressed, as had the Alpine-Renaults, the Carrera 6 Porsches had covered themselves with glory and the MG.-Bs had done well, particularly that of Makinen/Rhodes. Many cars had been wrecked, many drivers disillusioned and many mistakes made. The Hawkins/Epstein Ferrari LM had not needed our emergency services, as due to the tyre problems the running schedule had been changed, but in spite of the delays to change tyres they completed nine laps and qualified.
When the roads were eventually opened we set off on the return down the circuit through Collesano and Campofelice, back to Cefalu. Shortly before Campofelice we found Ligier in the Ford France GT40 by the roadside with a broken left rear stub axle, having skated to rest unharmed within some 12 kilometres of the finish. We gave him what food we had with us and left him guarding the car from souvenir hunters. On the second lap Ed Freutel had crashed the 7-litre Cobra and returned to the pits on foot, and when the mechanics eventually went to collect the car a lot of bits were missing.
The Targa Florio only happens once a year, and the Sicilians made the most of it. After the results had been sorted out there was a bit of a stir as Ford-France (managed in the pits by John Wyer) put in a protest at being omitted from the results. The regulations said nine tenths of the winner’s distance was sufficient to be classified; in other words nine laps to the winner’s ten laps. Ignoring the fact that the Ford did not finish the race, it covered 9 laps in a time that gave it victory in the over 2,000 c.c. sports class and 12th place overall.-D.S.J.
The two M.G-Bs beat two 911 Porsches in their class, which could mean that they are superior cars. Two 1,250 c.c. Alpine-Renaults beat the M.G.s, though not in the same class, they could be superior cars.
Six Carrera 6 Porsches started in the sports class and four finished, not had going in the Targa Florio, when it included an outright win.
With Vaccarella presumed to be the winner for the second year running, Bandini was not the most popular driver when he upended the Ferrari, nor was the driver who caused the accident. Vaccarella had some strong words to say about “dilettanti” on the circuit.
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