From its incarnation in the hands of eccentric Italian count Vincenza Florio in 1906 to its eventual demise in 1977, the Targa Florio saw hundreds of sportscars gather annually to race around varying road circuits, competing for the title at what was considered to be one of Europe’s most important races.
The most recent incarnation of the course, the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie, was a 45-mile loop, which drivers lapped 11 times. It was on this circuit, from 1955 until 1973, that the Targa Florio formed part of the World Sportscar Championship. Nowadays, those very roads are used as part of the Italian Rally Championship.
In the height of its popularity, the Targa Florio was a dangerous game for both drivers and locals alike. The roads which made up the mountain circuit were only closed on race day, leaving competitors to practice on open roads…
For a real taste of the incredible racing, take a look at this marvellous period video. It’s narrated by then-current racer Vic Elford, a man who in 1968 alone become European Rally Champion in a works Porsche 911, won Porsche’s first 24 hour race at Daytona in a Porsche 907, won the Targa Florio and finished fourth in his first Formula 1 race.
Vic’s challenge for the win at the Targa Florio ended with an engine failure in his Alfa Romeo Tipo 33, so he sat and watched as the other Alfa, driven by Nanni Galli and Helmut Marko, hunted down the leading Ferrari 312PB driven by Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari.