The Thirty-Ninth Targa Florio - Youth to the Fore
Palermo, October 16th
This year the age-old Targa Florio took on a new lease of life as it was included in the events counting for the manufacturers’ world Championship of sports cars. With the points marking leaving the situation very open between Jaguar, Ferrari, and Mercedes-Benz, the race took on the position of the final decision for the honours in this championship. Mercedes-Benz went to Sicily in full force. while Ferrari did the best they could and Jaguar did not bother to compete, so the final issue lay between Maranello and Stuttgart.
The Targa Florio must rate as the toughest motor race remaining on the International Calendar and thus year the length of the race was nearly doubled, to comply with world championship regulations, making it the hardest Targa ever. The Madonie circuit which is used for this race lies in the north of Sicily and on one of the normal public roads front sea level up into the wild mountains and down again, passing through three villages on the way. The total length of one lap is 72 kilometres (approximately 45 miles) and with the exception of a four-kilornetre straight is one long succession of corners, both up hill and down. At the best of times the Sicilian roads are far from perfect, and recent bad weather played havoc with them, so that the week before the race there were signs of the whole thing being washed away. Cloudbursts kept washing mud and rock on to the roadways as fast as they could be cleared, and throughout the day before the race local labour worked endlessly to try and keep the roads clear.
This event is run in a similar fashion to the Mille Miglia, on normal public roads, closed but not barricaded for the occasion, and there was no practice, drivers having to thrash their way round amongst the normal dense traffic of mule carts and lorries. For a whole week before the race the circuit was a scene of chaos with everything screaming round, from 300SLR Mercedes-Benz to 600 Fiats, and most teams suffered bent and battered motor cars. Mercedes-Benz were drilling their team to learn the long and trying circuit, making their drivers do three or four laps a day, and Ferrari were just as active. After a week of intermittent sunshine and tropical downpours race-day dawned bright and clear, and by mutual consent of the entries the start was put forward two hours so that the finish would be in daylight and not darkness as originally intended. The blood and thunder of this real road race was frightening most of the drivers anyway, apart from driving in the dark.
As a very wise step and an example to others, the organisers under the guidance of Vicenzio Florio, the originator of the event, did not allow entries of sports cars under 750 c.c. nor of Gran Turismo cars under 1,100 c.c. Even so, forty-seven cars lined up, just below the permanent grandstand and pits, and at 7 a.m. the first car, an Alfa-Romeo PI, left the start, the rest following at 30-sec. intervals. Naturally, the real interest lay in the outright winner, who was obviously to be found in the large-sports-car class, but many of the smaller cars were worth watching. Among the Gran Turisrno cars there was a battle brewing between an Italian-driven 300SL and some 8v Fiat Zagatos, but it was the four-cylinder twin-plug 1,500-c.c. Osca of Cabianco and Corini that first aroused interest. This was followed away by a line of 2-litre Maseratis, among them two 2-litre versions of the four-cylinder 150M model, the first driven by Bracco/Bordoni, the second by Manzin/Muny. A favourite for this class was the normal 3-litre six-cylinder of Tarini/Manzini aided by that of Maria Therese Philippi/Bilucci. In this group was a lonely Lotus with Lister-Connaught engine driven by Young/ Richardson.
It was the big boys that really stole the show, and after Biotti (Ferrari Monza) and Ricci (Gordini 3-litre) had gone, the first Mercedes-Benz left with Moss at the wheel, to be co-driven by Collins. These SLRs models were virtually as last year. After the surprise of Peter Collins as co-driver to Moss, was the sight of Desmond Titterington going off next, also in a 300SLR Mercedes-Benz, to be assisted later by John Fitch. Next went Shelby with a Monza Ferrari from a private stable and then Fangio on the third Mercedes Benz, with Kling standing by as co-driver. There followed the main opposition, Castellotti with a works Ferrari Monza 3-litre with Manzon as co-driver, followed by Musso with a lone Maserati 300S with Villoresi in reserve, and finally went the works Ferrari Monza 3-litre of Maglioli/Fighinolfi. When everyone had left the happy Italian pandemonium subsided and everyone waited for the end of lap one.
There was a total of 13 laps to cover and no driver was allowed to drive for more than five laps in a row, on account of the gruelling nature of the course. From the start Moss set a cracking pace. For Mercedes-Benz had given their drivers complete freedom, unlike theorganised Grand Prix demonstrations.
During his fourth round Moss became a little too confident and made a mistake, which, on this circuit, meant that he found himself well and truly off the road in a field and nearly over a precipice. There being no violent rules in the Targa Florio, the local peasantry man-handled the Mercedes-Benz now rather bent on one side, back on to the road, and Moss arrived back at the pits, now in fourth place, sadder but wiser. Though bent, the car was drivable, and Collins took over, set ting off at a fantastic pave to try and regain the lead. This error had let fiastellotti into the lead and he quickly refuelled and handed over to Manzon, while Musso gave the big Maserati to Villoresi but he did not get far as the rear axle-then broke. Now the race developed into a close personal battle amongst the Mercedes-Benz team drivers unrestricted by the hands of Neubauer, with the lone Ferrari well in amongst them.
Collins was in terrific form, having learned the ciretiit thoroughly by dint of sheer hard oork. and in four meteoric laps caught and passed Kling, now 1 ;Ake!’ over from Fangio, and Manzon over from Castellotti, as well as the Titterington/Fitch Mereedes-flettz. At the end of the eighth lap the car Was back in the lead. but not before he too had gone off the road and wrecked the nose of the car, and he handed it back to Moss to complete the remaining live laps. With the free hand they were given there was nothing to stop these two youths, and MOSS went faster and faster, outpacing everyone, including Fangio. Almost everyone had made solid contact with block or bridges and Fitch hacked the rear of his car against a concrete post before handing back to Tit terington to cover the last five laps. These two were well matched and running: very regularly, as.coms pared with Castellotti and Manzon. between whom there was quite a difference in lap times. Providing Moss had no more excursions off the road. victory was assured. and Fangio was firmly in second place, after Manzon burst his tyre and had to Change it out on the circuit. Ile then stopped at the pits and amid wild screams of joy from the enormous crowds lining the roadside Castellotti set off on the last three laps, ahead of Titterington but IlOt (1i u4! emaigh to Fangio to be it menace. Amongst the small cars Tarini and Manzini were running very well indeed, while the little Osea got round and gave place to ltolusso’s
young brother, driving. is 2-litre “ix-eylinder Ma’erati. A118 iously everyone waited this final 15 minute” while Sloss eompleted his 13th lap, fortunately. jo-t ltebire darkness began to fall.
The two young Erigli”linicit achieved a ‘weeping victory gained on pure driving skill and added their names to the. honourable list of Targa Florio winners, after miming one of the hardest and toughest races experieneed for many years.
In contrast to the battered and bent winning car, that of Fangio and Kline had only one slight graze and a dented wheel tint, hut Fitch had^ritade a thorough job of demolishing the rear of the body of his car. Castellot ti and Manson had rubbed both sides of the Ferrari, and Gniaditti finished oith one headlamp pushed sideways.
‘fhe number of bent and battered motor ears at lite end of this event was Indy firitastic. Noses were squashed, lamps smashed, sumps broken. tails crushed and cars totally demolished, but not a single casualty resulted in any of the drivers. As for mechanical massacre, the Targa Florio must stand unique. while, as one of the real ‘sports-car road races, it is outstanding. Results s
TARGA FLORIO—Retailer 161h-13 lamps of 72 Kilometre Circuit-936 Kilonsetrea. Hot and Sunny
: S. Miletg,’1′. Issilsie. (MPrcetles.13mw 3011SLR) … 9 M. 13 min. 14.11 gee. 9/..2an k.p.h. (ill-me errors!)
2nd J. NI. Fongin K. K ling Cileere.1,,.-11, 114 300SI.R) la. 17 min. 55.4 sec.
hits E. Castellottili. !,1 /1114011 (1…-1,,,r? 731/S1 9 hr. 33 min. 20.13 see.
4th :j. D. Titteringt•m .1. I. a. Is/ 301/-11.131 9 la. it 111?11. 53.4 see.
it), .1.05511 c.c.) … In M. 11 min. 15.0 .see. fah : E. N1dAermi 2.51(11 c.c.) la. 48 min. 53.2 see. sal Ill he. 50 ntin. 37.0 see. 7th : Cabianc. 1Imuni 10.0, 1,soo … I tap behind 8th : E. 1-L-orLit is 1Maserati 2,111111 • 9th : K. Bet Int ti inn de lritti1il, (Magmati 2.(51111,..,) I sup 1,;,1,1,4
Pa.siest top • 111e,mles-Ilmsx). lisp 3. in .13 min. t1.7 ..m,…,1(111./86 k.p.h. (nese rerOffi) Targa Florio Flashes
It was thank, to Ow isiliami publie that Mos, was able to win; without their help he is ould never have got t he car back on the road. * * *
The new 2-litre four-cylinder Maseratis were disappointing, one crashed, and the ether broke an oil pipe and ran its bearings. * *
Pit stops were wonderful. there being no rules about the number of helpers. The pits were on a byspass road from the main track and were a scene of continuous confusion and perpetual tumult and shouting, but quite safe.