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The Targa Florio was an open road endurance automobile race held in the mountains of Sicily near Palermomarker. Founded in 1906, it used to be the oldest sports car racing event, part of the World Championship until 1973. While also a whole tour (giro) of the island was used at times, the track length of the last decades was limited to the of the Circuito Piccolo delle Madoniemarker which was lapped 11 times.

After 1973, it was a national sports car event until it was discontinued in 1977 due to safety concerns. It is since run as a rallying event, and is part of the Campionato Italiano Rally, the Italian national rally championship.


The race was created in 1906 by the wealthy pioneer race driver and automobile enthusiast, Vincenzo Florio, who had started the Coppa Florio race in Bresciamarker, Lombardy in 1900.

Always one of the toughest competitions in Europe, the first Targa Florio covered 277 miles (446 km) through multiple hairpin curves on treacherous mountain roads, at heights where severe changes in climate frequently occurred. Alessandro Cagno won the inaugural 1906 race in nine hours, averaging 30 miles per hour (50 km/h).

By the mid-1920s, the Targa Florio had become one of Europe's most important races, as neither the 24 Hours of Le Mansmarker nor the Mille Miglia had been established yet. Grand Prix races were still isolated events, not a series like today's F1.

The wins of Mercedes (not yet merged with Benz) in the 1920s made a big impression in Germany, especially the one of German Christian Werner in 1924, as it was the only non-Italian winner in 50 years. Rudolf Caracciola repeated a similar upset win at the Mille Miglia a couple of years later. In 1926, Eliska Junkova, one of the great female drivers in Grand Prix motor racing history, became the first woman to ever compete in the race.

In 1953, the FIA World Sportscar Championship was introduced. The Targa became part of it in 1955, when Mercedes had to win 1-2 with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR in order to beat Ferrarimarker for the title. They had missed the first two of the 6 events, Buenos Airesmarker and the 12 Hours of Sebring, where Ferrari, Jaguar, Maseratimarker and Porsche scored. Mercedes appeared at and won in the Mille Miglia, then pulled out of the 1955 Le Mans disastermarker, but won the Tourist Trophy at Dundrodmarker. Stirling Moss/Peter Collins and Juan Manuel Fangio/Karl Kling finished minutes ahead of the best Ferrari and secured the title.

So, over the years, the greats of Grand Prix racing and Formula One such as Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio, Belgium's Olivier Gendebien and Britain's Stirling Moss came to challenge Italian champions, Tazio Nuvolari, Alfieri Maseratimarker, Achille Varzi and other, like local hero Nino Vaccarella.

Several versions of the track were used. It started with a length of 148 km (92 miles) for a lap, then was shortened twice to the lap that was used in the last decades, for usually 10 laps in the race. Start and finish was at Cerdamarker. The counterclockwise lap lead from Caltavuturomarker and Collesanomarker from over down to sea level, where the cars raced from Campofelice di Roccellamarker on the Buonfornello straight along the coast, over longer than the Hunaudièresmarker straight at the Circuit de la Sarthemarker at Le Mansmarker. Also, even full tours around the island were done before and after the wars.

The race cars were started one by one every two minutes for a time trial, as a start from a full grid was not possible on the tight and twisty roads. Helmut Marko set the lap record in 1972 in an Alfa Romeo 33TT3 at 33 min 41 s or an average of . The fastest ever was Leo Kinnunen in 1970, qualifying the Porsche 908/3 at or 33 min 36 s. Due to the long track, drivers practised in the week before the race in public traffic, often with their race cars fitted with license plates. Porsche factory drivers even had to watch onboard videos, a sickening experience for some.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, race cars with up to 600 hp (450 kW) such as Nino Vaccarella's Ferrari 512S raced through small mountain villages while the people were sitting or standing right next to or even on the road. Porsche, on the other hand, did not race its big Porsche 917, but rather the nimble Porsche 908/03 Spyders.

Due to safety concerns, the last real Targa Florio as an international professional race was run in 1973. In that year, even a Porsche 911 won as the prototypes suffered crashes or other troubles. The Targa was continued as a national event for some years, before a fatal crash sealed its fate in 1977. It is since run as a rallying event.

It is still going in some form or other in 2009. On October 9 in Cefalu about 40 souped up classic sports tourers set off at approximately one minute intervals from Piazza del Duomo, which is as far from looking like a racing track as can be imagined. Driving teams and cars were seriously kitted out for racing business. It is difficult to find much hard information on the web, save for a travel company website offering it as an 'event' near Palermo on 9-10 October. There was an excited commentary eliciting an enthusiastic round of applause for one entrant, so it seems likely there was at least one celebrity driver.


After winning the race several times, Porsche named the convertible version of the 911 after the Targa which later became a glass roof version of the Porsche 911 Carrera being another car named after a race. The name of the Targa with the large roll bar was a wise choice, as targa means shield, see targa top.

The event has lent its name to a number of road rallies such as Targa Tasmania


Pre-WWI races

Between the Wars

Post-WW II races

World Championship races

Non-WC races

Wins by brands

The list below shows the names of all car manufacturers who have been awarded (wins, second places and third places). The table does not take into account the results of the 1957 edition because that was disputed as regularity race following the Mille Miglia tragedy at Guidizzolo.

Pos. Brand 1st




|Alfa Romeo
|Isotta Fraschini
|De Vecchi
|Aquila Italiana
|Aston Martin

See also

Further reading

  • Valenza, Giuseppe (2007). Targa Florio Il Mito: Legenda Editore (Italy). ISBN 88-88165-17-7.


  1. Race report [1]
  2. Race report [2]
  3. Race report 54th TARGA FLORIO
  4. Race report TARGA FLORIO (ROUND #6)

External links

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