Jenks on...The Targa Florio (1970)

Targa Florio

Sicily looks beautiful, but it's a bit quiet, isn't it? Not this month, as the centenary of the Targa Florio, one of the world's most celebrated races, shatters the peace

By the time you read this they will already have kicked off the Targa Florio Centenary festivities on the island of Sicily. But worry not, for the highlight of the event takes place between May 30 and June 4.

Porsches, Ferraris and Maseratis will feature in the Historic Rally, which is open to cars built between 1906-'77. The entrants all arrive on Tuesday May 30, but the competitive element really kicks off on Saturday June 3, when the cars complete sighting laps of the traditional 44-mile Piccolo Madonie circuit, as well as the medium and big layouts. The event proper is then run on the following day, with one lap on each of the three circuits.

The Florio Cup, meanwhile, is open to sports and GT cars. These will be on track from Thursday June 1, and this even culminates with a regularity historic race over either one or two laps of the Piccolo Madonie circuit on Sunday June 4.

Before these climaxes to the celebrations, the Targa Florio Centenary historic car regularity will run from May 16-22, with competition starting on Wednesday May17. Once more, this is open to cars built between 1906-'77, and covers most of the south and west of the island.

The Franca Florio Concours d'Elegance, which is also open to concept cars, runs during the same period, with cars lapping the Madonie circuit on Saturday May 20.

If you get a chance, watch the Trofeo Florio, the third round of the FIA Historic Rally Championship. The stages take place on the Piccolo Madonie between May 19-21. A host of Porsche 911s are on the entry list, with variety provided by Lancia Stratos, Alfa GTAs and an Alpine A110. Don't miss Sandro Munari (a former Targa Florio star) and Markku Alén, who will be present with a Stratos.

Jenks on...the Targa Florio (1970)

The Porsche factory has won the Targa Florio for the last five years as well as five times before that, but not consecutively, and to many people that would be sufficient, but not for Porsche. This time they came not only to win but also to pulverise any opposition that might appear, and the whole weight of the racing department was thrown into the attack. The subtle niceties of there being no official works Porsche team, but two privately-sponsored teams with works support, went by the board, and although JW Automotive and Porsche-Salzburg were the entrants, that is as far as the non-works activity went. Everything was pooled in the name of Porsche-Stuttgart and it was a factory onslaught on the Targa Florio that was unsurpassed.

That Porsche were out to win was very obvious but when you looked around to see who they were going to beat it was not so obvious. Ferrari entered only one car, for Vaccarella/Giunti, more as a sporting gesture to the Sicilians and their number one driver than a serious attempt to win. Undoubtedly the hard fight that Ferrari had put up at Monza the week before, and Nino Vaccarella's practice times, had fired the enthusiasm of the Sicilians.

All around the first lap the road conditions were bad, delicate throttle control being needed rather than bravado, and two important entries did not even get half-way round. Vic Elford (Porsche) dodged a rock lying in the road and in doing so hit a kerb and either broke a suspension part or damaged a tyre and on the very next corner lost control and crashed heavily, wrecking the white and orange Porsche and having to sit with the wreckage for the rest of the day. This was just after Cerda, a bare 12 kilometres from the start. A little farther on Maglioli lost control of his Tipo 33/3 Alfa Romeo on the slippery surface and went off the road.

The Porsche team were content for any Porsche to be in the lead. As the leading group finished lap four, there was a lot of activity at the pits as the factory all refuelled and Brian Redman took over the (winning) car from Jo Siffert. In the ensuing scramble of the crowd to get out of the way a woman had her leg injured by the faster spectators, and that was the only casualty after 78 cars had taken part in the 54th Targa Florio over 11 laps of the mountain circuit amid a record crowd of enthusiastic Sicilians. Yet there are mutterings in Milan that the race is dangerous and should be altered. May the real Targa Florio live on forever.

Denis Jenkinson was our Continental Correspondent for more than 40 years