Vic Elford on the Targa Florio

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Even in the 1970s, the Targa Florio was an anachronism. Held around the twisting roads of Sicily, it was a major part of the sports car championship for many years. Cars set off at 15 second intervals and raced around the (for most of its history) 45 mile circuit that ran through the hills and towns of the island.

The 1972 race seen in this video was won by Ferrari drivers Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari. The Scuderia dominated the sports car season that year with the 312PB, winning every round except Le Mans – which they didn’t even enter, fearing their F1-derived engines wouldn’t last the distance. Munari was an interesting addition to the team for the Targa. A rally driver – and later a champion for Lancia – he knew the area like the back of his hand and his talents combined with the aggressive Merzario made for an effective pairing.

Vic Elford won the event in 1968, sharing a Porsche 907 with Umberto Maglioli. ‘Quick Vic’ became a hero to many after the victory, having lost 18 minutes on the first lap after a tyre failure. One of the most intriguing parts of the film is his description of Helmut Marko’s worries about the race and subsequent lap record. After making headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, it’s a great reminder that he was capable of a banzai performance in his day.

This video is an excerpt from the film The Speed Merchants, a documentary following the 1972 sports car season. It’s well worth a watch.

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