Targa Florio, Sicily - 1965

Italy

SPORTSCARS RACES IN THE 1960's

Targa Florio 62

Targa Florio 63

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Targa Florio 65

Targa Florio 67

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Targa Florio 48-66

Author: ArchitectPage

ORDINARILY the Santa Lucia hotel at Cefalu, Sicily, is a reasonably nice place in spite of the slightly grotty cooking. The rooms are spacious, the toilet actual1y flushes, hot water comes out of the hot water tap (the cold one too, come to that), the sheets are clean, and the Med with its view of Cefalu is just out in front. The only complaint is that the architect's last designing job was a bass drum, as everything is carefully arranged for maximum resonance. The doors are all hollow with built-in drafts to slam them, the armoire door squeaks, the light switches snap like crickets, and every stray snore, amorous muttering, or digestive upset echoes down the tile and plaster corridors like the crack of doom. Adding to the confusion, the main highway runs just across the front porch and no truck or shinqueshento can go by without saluting the occupants inside the hotel. Sleeping wel1? Thatsa good. Glad to have you in Sicily. Oh, there's the moon! Blat. And there's the train. Blat. And Termini Imerese 40 km away. Blat. . . . . . . . Wel1, isn't it a bit quiet? Blat. Peep. Peep. Peeeeeeeeep. BLAT. Pp. bIt. BLAAAA T. And so on.

The Sicilians rather enjoy all this row and in fact credit it with removing successive invaders from the island. Festive occasions like the Targa Florio goad them to even greater heights of activity, the normal noises being augmented by the straight pipes of every Stage One boy from Trapani to Siracusa plus long ululating squeals at intervals as passersby catch sight of the yard ful1 of Porsches and clap on the brakes. Since it is a point of honor not to use the rear view mirror, some of the avoidances are marvelous, with three or four cars weaving in and out while all occupants have their faces turned toward the hotel. Practical1y everybody comes past ful1 chat, including visiting GTOs from the Jolly down the road having a plug clean, but even the Porsche mechanics or the large Alfa contingent operating out of the Supercortemaggiore station across the street just charge out without looking. It is the most dangerous place I know outside of the Esses on the second lap at Le Mans and if it were at home would have at least six stoplights and a speed limit.

Anyway, all this works itself up to a fine point on the night before the race, as the road closes early and many spectators go up and camp at some favorite viewing spot. Everyone from Cefalu to Messina passes by the Santa Lucia, making sleep just that mite more difficult, and in addition there are Porsches in the basement like some sort of basso profundo termite. Naturally enough we all go to bed early, as it is wise to get through the police roadblock before 6 (for an 8 o'clock start) but being in bed and sleeping are not the same thing. Besides the usual echoes, there is a near accident every five minutes outside, the wakeful roosters, the overworked espresso machine, a dog conversation over about four kilometers, someone making a suit of armor in Cefalu, Geoff snoring, and the distant jungle scream of a Ferrari LM being run up to 8 thou. Eventually, however, we dropped off but were snatched awake from time to time thinking "Migawd the alarm hasn't gone off" as service vans departed for the Polizzi service point or else a nasal tubolare droned up the road to check out its newly installed clutch. So who can sleep? I was almost glad when 5 came and we got up, shaved our uglies, gathered the junk, grabbed a cappucino downstairs, and rumbled off in the Mustang. Through the road block okay, although the wagging fingers were wagging before we ever came in sight. Geoff dumped me off at the pits and then he carried on up around the course to Collesano while I staked out a place in the Press box with my baby umbrella. Later I found three friends of the organizers there and no umbrella.

There is supposed to be some sort of physical exam at 6 for the drivers, although I am sure most aren't alive at that time, and gradually the pits got to be the seething mass they always are before the start. Although most drivers were hidden out in the backs of rented Fiats quietly having the jangles, Ferrari's Mike Parkes was strolling around in a relaxed manner as Scarfiotti was going to start in "his" 3.3 liter 275-P2 roadster, one of three entered. Local boy Vaccarella had made fastest practice lap by far in another one of these low twincam twelves, while Baghetti/Guichet had not been terribly fast nor had Biscaldil Deserti in the GTB, running in Prototype as it won't be homologated as GT until later. Parkes was positive that the good handling, abundant power, and soft ride of the GP-suspension-based P2s would give them the nod over the four works Porsches or the Whitmore/ Bondurant Ford prototype. These are the only serious competition to the Fazzazz and not too serious at that, as one Ford vs. three Ferraris is not good odds and Porsche was in a most un-Germanic flap in spite of appearing with a very small cut-and-shut roadster on a 914 chassis with 8-cylinder stuffed in, the lot weighing about 1400 Ib, for Bonnier and G. Hill. On first acquaintance, Bonnier didn't seem to like the way the engineers had set it up and put up a bit of a fuss to get it done his way. In the meantime, last year's winner Colin Davis was getting the 8-cyl 914 coupe around a bit quicker, so 10 and behold he found himself robbed of it by the GP drivers and shoved into the spyder with Mitter. They promptly got it set back up the way it was originally but in justice to the original owners, it was running old Dunlop D-12s front and back, ignoring the considerable advances in tire design in the last couple of years and foregoing the juicy bite from fat yellow spots. Linge/ Umberto Maglioli took the 6-cyl 914 coupe, Pucci/ Klass a 4-cyl ditto in GT, while Vianini removed the other works 914 from contention when he went backwards off a curve in practice. Hack work was done by a red 912 (4-cyl engine in 911 bod)') which covered 2200 mi in practice!

All this made an unnecessary amount of tension chez Porsche but Ferrari was comparatively calm. Parkes and I agreed that Vaccarella might well overdo the home-town-boy bit and crunch it, leaving the ball of wax to Mad -Michael himself, and he even showed me Parkes' Law of Motion for predicting the winner. This involved taking the previous year's average, increasing it three percent, taking away four minutes for the two stops, mumble mumble mumble divided into the 720 km and come out with 39 min 48 sec, the lap time required to win. Inasmuch as the best race lap up to now was Mairesse's 40:02 in 1962, this seemed to both of us a bleak prospect so, exchanging dark glances, he went off to worry and I proceeded up the course toward a corner I liked, pausing only to have a word with Messrs Ennis Swanson, and Sharrigan of the Massachusetts-registered Abarth duemille who had come to do battle with the Porsches.

After walking a kilometer or so up the road, which was as full as the Fifth A venue Easier Parade with partying Sicilians, my favorite hairpinned bridge was reached and there was time to settle down under a bush from the already hot sun before the 1300 class departed at 8 ayem. That is, it was supposed to depart at 8 ayem and when it didn't the populated edges and hillocks rang with pithy comment on organizers, police, and whether the Honored Society was holding them up for a few more lire. Eventually, however, a rising snarl was heard as Gilhaudin's blue Alpine motored toward us, augmented by a chorus of whistles as he sedately took the corner. He was followed by 2 more Alpines, 10 Giulienas (mostly round tailed Zagatos), 6 Abarths, and one of the ex-Dick Jacobs racing MG midget coupes brought out to 1275 Mini standards. This pretty thing, driven sideways by Paddy Hopkirk, brought the crowd to its feet and continued to do so on succeeding laps.

Next up was the 1600 GT, populated by 8 Alfa Tubolare Zagatos, including the shrunken "aranciata" of Bussinello/ Todaro, followed closely by the decimated 2-liter GTs. Rinal­di's privately entered 914 stuttered to a stop up the hill with what sounded like fuel pump failure, but Klass in the works 9 I 4 and Ennis' American Abarth went through strongly. The inimitable Fazzazz noise was then heard and de Bourbon's late-model GTO then hustled past, followed by Raimondo's Lancia, Makinen's red and white works Healey (also side­ways), and 4 GTOs of varying vintages before a herd (4, really) of 250 LMs. These were in sort of a peculiar category called GT Competizione Nazionale, as the LMs are homolo­gated GTs in Italy for national races but not in international competition. Just what the position would have been if one of these half-breeds had won the race I shudder to think as, properly speaking, they shouldn't have been there except as prototypes.

The healthy bellow of Herrmann's 1600-cc open Abarth heralded the little prototypes, numbering among them Aaltonen/ Baker's dayglo green special Sprite, two ASAs, Grand sire's tailfinned Alpine, and Federico/ Cabral's GT A Alfa Giulia, running in prototype as it hasn't been homologated yet. Then came the big guns, Bonnier's 8-cyl Porsche coupe arriving at a tremendous rate of knots, Maglioli's 6-banger ditto, C. MagIioli's Lancia convertible, Colin Davis' Porsche buckboard, and an old front-engined Testa Rossa of Tagliavia. A short wait, then the Rev. Rupert Jones/Harper Sunbeam Tiger, Bondurant's green-painted Ford prototype, Biscaldi's GTB, then to a chorus of cheers and mad throttle music the 275-P2 roadsters, all gleaming red and menace, of Vaccarella, Scarfiotti and Guichet. Then silence, broken only by the hoarse cries of ice cream sellers, moans of small babies, and the chicken-farm babble that only an Italian race crowd can generate.

It wasn't all that long before the first car was around again heralded by a cherry bomb shot off down by the level crossing, and it turned out to be the Palermitano Calascibetta in his yellow Abarth Simca No. 26, going like the clappers hav­ing gobbled up all the preceding cars. The stop watch, how­ever, showed that Demetz' works Abarth No. 46, who passed by us 10th on the road, had made up a little more and thus led the class while the irrepressible Hopkirk was third. Zeccoli was the first of the three factory tubolares past, lifting a wheel energetically, but he was already third on time behind Bussinello's orange peel, and private entry Arena who had a Cobra here last year. The eventual winner of the 1600s, Rolland/ Bianchi, was only fourth (illustrating the prime law of the Targa) as the other two Auto-Delta cars were to go off in a big way and Arena would suffer a long pit stop. Of the others, Klass led the American Abarth, Ulisse the GTOs temporarily, Herrmann and Grandsire were walking away from the little prototypes, Casone the LMs which looked to be a handful on this circuit, Maglio]i led Bonnier and Davis in the Porsche class, while Palermo law professor Vaccarella turned a 40:05 lap from a standing start to stay ahead of the dreaded Scarfiotti. Overall, the Porsches were nowhere with Vaccarella heading Scarfiotti in a similar Ferrari with Bondurant's Ford third (41:56), Casone's LM fourth, and the careful Guichet fifth ahead of Maglioli, Herrmann, Bonnier, Davis, and surprise! Grandsire in the bored-out Gordini powered Alpine streamliner.

As so often happens in the Targa, the second lap removed a lot of odds and ends, plus also the people who think that now they can go fast. The Madonie is not the race course for such people. Vaccarella pulled out a smashing 39:21 to extend his lead but teammate Scarfiotti hit a projecting mountain and broke his steering, Demetz' Abarth blew up and handed the class win to Calascibetta, the A]fas of Asciutto, Garofajo, Lisitano, and Zeccoli disappeared, Bourbon-Parma removed the front of his lovely GTO, and it would not be long before the Alpine of Hanrioud packed up, besides Laureati's third-place Abarth. Ennis, after coming all the way from Massachusetts, flew off the road near Cerda and went axle-over-rad down into a field where he was ex­tracted from the inverted Abarth by peasants. He came to having a home brewed concoction forced down his throat by some black and midnight hag with one tooth in her head but at least he was walking around the next day. The Abarth, alas, was used up. This left 49 out of the original 59 starters and most of a hot day yet to come.

By this time there had been enough incidents to last most races but the Sicilians strolled about on the road to different vantage points; leaping for safety and applauding vigorously as a favorite came by, or else they stretched themselves out in the shade of the eucalyptus trees and attended to the pressing problem of lunch.

By the start of the fifth lap therefore the race pattern had begun to emerge, with the Porsches commencing to show their advantages. Baghetti in Guichet's car was still second, a little over 5 minutes behind Bandini, but old man of the mountains Magioli had brought the 6-cyl 914 up into third, only to lose that position to Davis in the 8-cyl, who was profiting by no tire changes when Umberto handed over to Linge. The Casone/ de Adamich LM was lying fifth ahead of Pucci/ Klass' normal 914, the first of the GTs, then Herrmann/Cella in the open Abarth, Biscaldi!Deserti's GTB that had had a flat on the course (and a ticking off from Ing. Forghieri), Bussinello/Todaro's orange Alfa, Bonnier/Hill's 8-cyl Porsche coupe which had been delayed by broken throttle linkage, then the Bondurant/Whitmore Ford after many adventures. To start with, the Ford had started running on seven from a broken spark plug cable but nobody knew the difference because of the peculiar exhaust system (!) and then Whitmore lost a fat-Goodyeared wheel at full flight on the short straight before the pits when the spinner fell off. The bearded baronet got it stopped all right, but the wheel was long gone, allegedly disrupting the overhead lines to the adjacent railway, and the spinner as well. Some sociable peasants helped John hold up the car while the spare was stuck on but it took some strong words by the local copper to get the spinner disgorged from a souvenir hunter's pocket. Meanwhile back at the ranch there had been some telephone intelligence work by Sun pressman Gill from the tribune delia stampa and team manager Carroll Smith was sprinting over hill and dale with a new spinner, only to see Whitmore depart before he got there. A pity, as the car had been up to third, been displaced by Guichet into fourth, then third again holding off Bonnier-all on 7 cylinders.

About this time we trundled down to the pits to watch the fun and overexpose our film with the fierce reflections. This area has been widened somewhat and thus there is room for a few photographers who can sneak in through a friendly pit. Even more than any normal race, there is absolute chaos, at the elevated temperatures play hell with the vehicles' constitutions and they are always coming in all sideways to report some derangement. The Petruzzi! Porro Giulietta rushed in as soon as we got there, its pilot screaming for olio, and the bonnet was whipped up and a gallon can full poured approximately in the direction of the filler. Naturally most went between the cam housings and there was a smell like a particularly villainous fried-octopus shop, complete with crackling noises. Naturally enough, the poor Giulietta wouldn't start even if the plugs hadn't been covered with oil but each turn of the starter blew smoke rings out the filler and curious pooting noises out the exhaust. What water remained could be heard boiling merrily in the radiator, the head could be seen arching itself off the block like an inchworm, and still the nudnicks kept trying to start it until it quit cranking with an ominous squeak. Two tubolares then arrived for fuel, which they couldn't have because the biggest Ferrari mechanic was holding both hoses ready for the GTB, and then there came one of those famous opera scenes with a 5 ft 2 driver hOllering up the nose of 6 ft Bruno. He was persuaded to part with one hose after a certain amount of force majeure had been brought to bear (AI fa, in the person of ex-Ferrari -Ing Chiti, were feeling choked as they had lost the quickest Tubolare plus the GT A), but when the GTB Ferrari arrived it needed bodywork plus a new rear end. After some peering around underneath it was sent on its way to finish, but about this time Baghetti turned up missing.

The Red Cross helicopter took off to have a look around and Graham Hill came in with reports of a badly burnt out red car that had made a nonsense of the esses at the end of the long straight. Then the ambulance appeared and went straight into the pits hospital, if one can dignify the dirt-floor shack by that name, so nobody felt very happy and studiously avoided staring at the beautiful Madame Baghetti like they usually do. However Ing Dragoni soon came out with the news that the crashed car had been Giliberti's Abarth. Baghetti walked in eventually with a sunburned nose and a tale of a short circuit which drained his battery. Giliberti was okay if rather fried about his lower parts as he had stuck in the window of the blazing Abarth while being dragged out. Grandsire as well had crashed his fast Alpine and had been severely burned about the face and arms. Linge allowed that it was time that these people should follow Porsche practice and move the fuel tanks away from the engine.

Anyway, Bandini came in with the last surviving 275-P2 and Vaccarella stood very, very still while the latest information was passed to him, threats hollered into his ear by Forghieri, the car refueled by too many mechanics to a chorus of cries from the commissaires, 'and windscreen cleaned. Everything ready, he got in carefully, wincing a bit at the hot seat, and sprayed gravel all over the place to scrub in his new back tires while the Ferrari engineers cast their eyes to heaven and thought about the back axles as Davis' Porsche thundered by with a Teutonic grumble.

There was nothing to do bur wait for the remaining three laps to see if anything would break. French industrialist Blouin came in with his street GT Ferrari, having goodheartedly given a ride to some stranded driver, and was promptly disqualified. After a shouting match in which he reminded them that he had driven all the way from Deauville to run this race, he carried on but promptly mashed the front end against a mountain. The softening asphalt and generous deposits of gravel were beginning to reap their toll, as the pits filled up with GTOs and LMs and Alfas in need of drastic bodywork revisions. The Ford pitted for Bondurant to replace Whitmore, still running on seven and pumping oil, but then got caught out on gravel up past Cerda and slid off into the ditch. As this was allegedly a semi-private entry of Whitmore's, it is a pity that Ford couldn't have sent another car or so to support him. The BMC entry as well was having its fun. Makinen and Hawkins, shooting the big Healey sideways into every corner rally-fashion to the alarm of other drivers, had worked their way up ahead of all the GTOs in spite of changing tires every two laps, but then it started to misfire. After changing plugs and such, Hawkins powered off in clouds of the Great Australian Adjective but soon came running back with a fragmented rotor arm in his hand. The mechanics informed him that there was a whole new distributor in the car but none in the pits so he wearily lumbered back to get going again but the Ravetto/ Starabba GTO had got past, giving the Healey a second in class like the other two Coventry machines. Too bad, that would have given Enzo something to think about.

Two laps to go and it was stilI very hot. A fair amount of citizens were leaving to avoid the evening GP back to Palermo, but for the teams the race was still on, with 144 km still to go. Herrmann's open Abarth began to tire and slid gently down the leaderboard past Pucci's and Bonnier's Porsches, while Calascibetta's 1300 coupe had a long pit stop to replace a broken throttle cable and give a fine display of emotions for the Italian TV; that done, he charged off and managed to get the class lead back from Hopkirk and Hedges in the MG coupe.

Casone's LM, after leading its category most of the way, likewise felt il1 and retired out in the country somewhere while the Alfa start team of Rolland/ Bianchi finally got the measure of private owner Arena/ Sirugo and slipped their works twin-plug tubolare past. The pits began to fill up with filtering well wishers eager to see a Sicilian victory; Dragoni somewhat self-consciously took up his position near the pit entrance with the Ferrari come-in flag while Count Federico prepared the one that mattered. The good Count flagged the wrong car a couple of times, including one of the still run­ning but last-in-class ASAs, and finally a great burst of enthusiasm, Vaccarella! All around the course spectators had been throwing flowers and their Nino had been reading congratulatory messages painted on walls for him. . .

Vaccarella. . . Forza! . . . Dai Nino! Nino insegne loro la strada! . . . and now he was snatched from the car and carried, exhausted and head rolling, to the balcony above the pits to hear the National Anthem for himself and Bandini. After a three year absence from the Targa, including having his driving license pinched by these same coppers who cheered him, he had a right to his broad smile and triumphal waves.