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Nino Vaccarella

09.12.2012, 16:40:41 cet

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Cefalu, 13-15 October, 2000

First look
Only one word came to mind when reading the provisional entry list for the first Targa Florio Revival organised by Patrick Peter and Rosario Parasiliti: Mouthwatering !

Famous names such as ex-Formula 1 drivers Jochen Mass listed to drive a Porsche 908, and Patrick Tambay to drive a Ferrari 250 GT Competizione, could be found on the list. Four (!) Alfa Romeo Tipo 33’s were entered to race on the famed Madonie circuit but eventually ”only” two Tipo 33 Daytona Coupes participated.

A veritable who’s who of almost every conceivable historic sports racing cars gathered on this weekend in October, and this should have made the event deserved of a crown in vintage racing.

In fact this was never achieved. Why, this will be explained later.
Nevertheless it was a remarkable gathering in Sicily, bringing together a host of rare cars, wonderful weather and a taste of the Sicilian way of life !

The roots
The Targa Florio was founded in 1906 by Vincenzo Florio, the son of a rich family dynasty which traded in oil, lemons and wine from Palermo to the rest of the world.

Vincenzo, who was born in 1883, soon became very interested in road races and so he ”invented” the Coppa Florio, a road race beginning from Brescia through Cremona to Mantua and back.

In 1906 an extraordinary idea came to mind – to create a street race in Sicily, his home island. The winner of this race took home a gold medal especially designed by Vincenzo himself, and this medal was the reason why this race later was called ”Targa Florio” !

Looking back now, Vincenzo’s life dream was held 57 times in 67 years and it became the hardest road race in the world besides the Mille Miglia. In 1973 the Targa was run for the last time, stopped because of increasing safety demands it would never be able to fulfil.

The most Targa Florio victories were collected by a marque which has a prancing horse in its coat of arms: No, not Ferrari this time, but Porsche; the German car manufacturer won it 11 times including the last race held in 1973 !

Alfa and Ferrari often had little chance against their German opponent – especially the 908 model, which was regarded as the model to beat on this small mountain circuit in the early seventies.

The race was long: twelve laps of the 72 km circuit – 12 laps, in which at least 8000 curves had to be mastered ! Only the best drivers in the world could complete a lap in around 30 minutes and often they couldn’t finish the race, because often their concentration did not last for all 12 laps !

The Targa Florio 2000 in concreto
As mentioned, not all the cars announced in the entry list participated in the Targa Florio 2000, but still a tremendous starting grid was presented to the spectators for scrutineering on Saturday.

While the sun shone brightly on the beautifully polished cars, the first the prototypes were unloaded from their trucks.

Alfa Romeo
Early in the morning the two Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/2 ”Daytona Coupes” , chassis No.007 belonging to Paul Osborn and No.020 driven by Gregor Fisken could be seen behind the old original Targa Florio tribunes, which by the way had seen better times like all the old Targa Florio buildings near Cerda.

It is believed that Gregor Fisken’s Tipo 33/2 is exactly the same car Michel Weber of Germany drove in the European hillclimb championship 1969 to third place overall (behind Peter Schetty in a Ferrari 212 E Montagna), for the German Alfa Romeo concessionaire.

In 1971 this car was bought by Heinz Isert, also a German who raced it privately and who chopped off the coupe’s roof to create a targa top. Offers are now invited for ”020” and it is rumoured that Gregor Fisken wants $ 600,000 for it. For the Targa Revival he shared it with Martin Eyears.

At least as beautiful as the prototypes, were two Alfa Romeo TZs, a red one (s/n 750090) and a yellow one (s/n 750073) showed up, and were presented in almost ”over restored”  condition. Both were bought in auctions within the last year or so by their respective current owners, Mr. Georges Huber from Switzerland and Juan Quintano from Spain.

Ferrari – 17 entries
After studying the beautiful lines of these Alfa prototypes another highlight was unloaded:

The fantastic Ferrari 512 M s/n 1028, entered by "Fransika & FrankFord" from Germany !

These well known Ferrari collectors had 1028 specially modified for this event by DK Engineering including a higher ride height because of the expected bumpy roads, a hydraulic hand brake and exhaust silencers. Nice to see that it’s really possible to get an English road licence for this brutish looking  machine, which drives so well and tamely as its owners assure…

But simultaneously this Ferrari was the ”horror” of all photographers because it was barely possible to get a picture without any spectators around the car!

With a huge crowd always surrounding the 512 M you could easily overlook one 60 year old man who seemed to be very interested in this sports prototype. Not without a reason was he interested, because this person was Nino Vaccarella, the same Sicilian schoolmaster and racing hero who drove 1028 at Daytona in 1970 together with Ignazio Giunti.

For me, and I think I can speak for all spectators who witnessed the moment, the absolute highlight of the event was when ‘Il Professore” himself took the opportunity to sit once again in his old ”office”!

Within the Ferrari entries there were two early 4-cylinder sports racers, the 750 Monza  (s/n 0462 M) from Roberto Crippa and the 500 TRC (s/n 0682 MDTR) driven by David Cottingham.

The black and yellow painted No. 0682 MDTR once belonged to Count Gaetano Starrabba, who lived (or still lives) in Palermo and was twice entered in the original Targa Florio. In 1958 the team Starrabba/Cortese achieved a seventh place, but in 1959 Le Coco badly crashed this Testa Rossa. The circumstances around the fate of the wreck aren’t clear to this day. David Cottingham, the owner and the head behind DK Engineering eventually bought the original wreck in 1982 and restored the Testa Rossa to its pristine condition.

Patrick Tambay, the ex-Ferrari-F1-driver, drove a Ferrari 250 GT SWB Competizione, which is owned by co-organizer Rosario Parasiliti and carries No. 2221 GT on the plates. 2221 GT wasn’t presented in the best of shape, and it looked a little bit tatty though freshly repainted  in bright red.  I personally witnessed a roll-over accident in the Castrol-S bend at the 1991 Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 1991, where the car suffered huge damage.

Two very nicely restored 250 GT SWBs (s/n 2419 GT & 2595 GT) and four 275 GTBs found their way to Sicily as well,and made a pleasant contrast to the huge Porsche 911 entry. Both steel-body SWB’s could offer race history in the sixties. The earlier one, chassis 2419 GT, was crashed in the 60’s at an hillclimb event driven by its then owner Blondet from France. Chassis 2595 GT was entered in the Tour de France in 1963 by Walter/Mueller from Switzerland with no success. Later Mueller drove some Swiss hillclimb races with this car. In the 70’s Klaus Scholtyssek bought the car, and it was for a long time part of his Ferrari collection.

Paul Knapfield drove his recently bought menacing looking ”Daytona” Competizione s/n16363, and it always was a pleasure to hear the trumpets-sound this beauty offered from twelve cylinders. Everyone could imagine that this Ferrari drove like it looks!

Unfortunately the 308 GTB Michelotto owned by Entremont shown on the entry list didn’t appear along with the Porsche 908, a second Porsche 906 etc..

Porsche 911 everywhere !
We all waited to see Jochen Mass driving a Porsche 908 in anger through the Sicilian mountains but this – perhaps – was the biggest disappointment over the weekend. It was rumoured that the Porsche 908 – owned by Ernst Schuster from Germany -  really was shipped to Palermo harbour but stayed there because the Automobile Club of Palermo would only allow cars which were driven together with a co- driver !

This rule is in my eyes - well let me say - a little bit ”confusing” because the 908 originally was homologated for this event, but I’ve never seen a 908 driven with two people in it  before ! I think too that this isn’t really possible. Not that there would be no proper passenger seat, but to fit in a co-driver the whole front cover has to be removed !

I can remember protests against this Porsche-like solution for a rule in the regulations that existed in the Seventies and it looks like history repeated itself in the Targa Florio Revival 2000.

But: One look by the organisers at contemporary race-pictures could have saved a lot of  disappointment  !

Porsche 911 variants in every colour and specification were gathered to form the biggest field in the grid. From 2.0, T, S to RS and RSR you could study virtually the whole Porsche-alphabet in Sicily. The well known 906 from Dieter Eissner-Eissenstein of Austria and the wonderful Porsche 904 GTS owned by Lindner held the flag high for the Porsche prototypes.

Two Porsche 550 RS, one driven by Claude Picasso, invoked memories of the great James Dean and one ultra-rare ”interesting” looking 356 Abarth Coupe, called the ”Vierkantschaber”, was entered by Pibarot from France.

Winning is everything !
One team showed up very professionally: The Lancia Stratos Gr.4 from father and son Bosch.
In my eyes this team wasn’t in Sicily just for pleasure, but only to win the event. As an example for this reaching this conclusion, at every stage its own service point was waiting for the Stratos ! But this was nothing compared to the ability its driver displayed during Saturday’s practise! The trip down to Sicily was worth all the money just to see this performance. I believe that I never saw the Stratos in anything other than oversteer all around the circuit, and you really could get tears of passion in your eyes watching the way Mr. Bosch threw his rally car through all the curves. Thank you for that !

And now I still ask myself one question: Who drove it ? Father or son ?

Not to forget Ford
Three Ford GT 40’s displaying three different episodes of development to create a winner stood in a row behind the old pit lane and demonstrated Fords will to win the Championship against Ferrari in the Sixties. The row started with an early 1964 example (s/n 111) painted white with two blue stripes, then the marvellous looking dark blue 1965 GT 40 driven by Ray Bellm and eventually to the very brute yellow 1968 GT 40 from Mr. Lecou from France.

Gentlemen start your engines
Sunday morning surprised all competitors because of its heavy rain, but it cleared up by l0:00 a.m. and left the way free for a sunny day.

Anyway the race started at 10:00 o’clock on dry bumpy roads, 72km through Northern Sicily. A number of cars couldn’t start on Sunday, including the above mentioned Lancia Stratos because of technical problems. Unfortunately the Ferrari 512 M was a non-starter as well. "Frank Ford" tested the circuit on Saturday afternoon, but realised early on that even with a 3cm increase in ride height the sports prototype was still too low for some of the countless bumps in the narrow streets. At test outings earlier on the Silverstone circuit, with even higher ride height, test driver David Franklin claimed that the car was undriveable, resulting in a spin at the first corner.

Klaus Busch, the owner of the recently restored 250 GT s/n 2595 GT, lost his car keys on Saturday just before he was to take me for a ride around the circuit, and while searching for the keys everywhere I lost my watch ! But this didn’t matter because David from DK Engineering ”made” the Ferrari  start without any keys and so it was possible for us to get a first impression of the route. I was very surprised that the 250 GT SWB handled so well, even through all the long curves, but it was more impressive to see the increasing enthusiasm of the Sicilian people when they saw ”our” maroon beauty.

On Sunday everyone clearly could see that the organisers priority lay on the Race-class and not on the Regularity section. Originally three rounds were promised for each of the class but while the ”real” racers could do that third lap the whole Regularity was stopped after their second turn with the explanation that the time was over. All this at 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon ! This situation, allied to the provision of a not all together precise road book, was cause for some ”head shaking” amongst the competitors.

The final result – not always of prime importance in such events – interested nobody, because a lot of competitors were disqualified afterwards. Some said later that only Italian competitors were in the first top ten ranking……but the true fact was that the organisers ruled an one hour parc ferme period, and nearly all the subsequently disqualified drivers had collected their cars after half an hour.

But as mentioned before, all this didn’t matter for those who came to Sicily only to have a lot of fun, nice warm weather, and the opportunity to get an insight into one of  the hardest road races Italy could offer in the last century !

Maybe there will be a second running under Parasiliti/Peter Auto next year, and maybe if the organisation could be slightly better, the aim could be reached in the future: To earn the crown the originally Targa Florio had in motor racing !

Bjoern Schmidt

Playing cards in Cefalù
Patrick Tambay
Frutta di Sicily
Vincenzo Florio
Porsche 550 Spyder 1500 RS (Schachtschneider/Korffmacher, D)
Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/2 "Daytona Coupes" s/n 75033007 & 75033020
Alfa Romeo TZ1 s/n 750090 (Huber/Göbel, CH)
Alfa Romeo TZ1 s/n 750073 (Juan Quintano, E)
Nino Vacarella's 1970 24h Daytona entry - Ferrari 512 M s/n 1028
Ferrari 250 GT SWB Competizione s/n  2221 GT (Tambay/Puyal, F)
Ferrari 250 GT SWB s/n 2595 GT
Porsche 904 GTS (Lindner/Lindner, D)
Lancia Stratos Gr.4 (Bosch/Bosch, NL)
Ferrari 512 M s/n  1028 racing through Collesano
Targa Florio pits
Orange gardens in Sicily
Nino Vaccarella
Porsche 908/2
Porsche 550 Spyder RS 1500 (Claude Picasso, F)
Porsche 356 B 2000 GT Abarth (Pibarot/Pibarot, F)
Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/2 s/n  75033007 racing down the hills to Collesano
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Targa Florio 2000 - Piccolo Circuito Madonie