VIP hospitality at the Targa Florio
In the 1968 Targa Florio, British owner-driver Paul Vestey ran his recently-acquired ex-Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 250LM. It had been the second of Maranello Concessionaires’ two 250LMs – chassis ‘6167’ – repainted from Colonel Hoare’s famous red and Cambridge-blue livery into PV’s favoured midnight-blue and white. He had run the car at Daytona, and with Roy Pike finished sixth in class at Brands Hatch. He lost a wheel in the Monza 1000Kms, and then for the Targa his co-driver was one of those heroes whose example he was following – David Piper.
The infinitely more experienced ‘Pipes’ took the start, but after a couple of laps the blue car did not reappear. Typically, Paul and his little team could not extract any news from race control concerning the fate of their car, nor indeed of their driver… Hours passed before they were finally told that the LM was off the circuit “somewhere around the 11-kilometre mark” and that David was unhurt.
It transpired that he had lost control on a fast mountainside section, possibly due to a steering arm coming adrift. The LM tripped over a roadside marker stone, and tumbled down into a field far below. It came to rest inverted, with its roof crushed down almost to the waistline. Somehow, burly David wriggled his way out, with little worse than bumps and scrapes.
He told a lovely story of what followed. Some locals appeared, one inviting him into his cottage. He was offered a drink. Then, “Mangiare?” – would he like something to eat? Well, that was most kind, yes he would, thank you. He polished off what was offered. And with the generosity of country folk the world over, they asked him if he’d like some more? Well, yes, actually, that would be most kind, “Grazie”. So he polished off that plate as well.
And then he glanced around and asked “Aren’t you having something yourselves?” Whereupon, to his horror, his hosts shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot, and explained “Well, no, signor – ummm, you have eaten it all!”
When PV and crew reached the scene the following morning they found that some obliging locals had rolled the Ferrari LM back upright, but had also pinched all its instruments and cut out the seat belts! Using their converted bus transporter, ‘Hannibal’, Vestey & Co dragged the wreck back up to road level, and after the engine and gearbox had been removed left the residue at Piero Drogo’s workshop in Modena. Paul then acquired George Drummond’s sister 250LM – rolling chassis ‘6053’ – into which 6167’s engine and gearbox were fitted in time for him to co-drive with Roy Pike at Le Mans… where the salvaged transaxle broke.
Looking back on this today, Paul recalls Michael Salmon of Maranello Concessionaires pointing out his naïveté in typical style: “Good heavens, don’t you realise that one never runs one’s own car at Monza or the Targa Florio? It takes such a beating it compromises the rest of one’s season!” Lesson learned. ‘Pipes’, by the way, was “good as gold”, advancing Vestey a loan “to tide him over”. Yes, really.