The Most Stunning Automobile Race That Ever Was
Oh... to experience this type of race
Motorsports are not only engaging, thrilling, mechanical, exciting, and historical, but motorsport also happens to be one of the most, if not the most beautiful sport of all time. Before regulations and rules started to kick into the motorsport and automotive world, most cars were designed to perfection by artists. Following the form follow function layout, designers could create masterpieces on wheels, or moving art as you would say. Every line, every headlight cover, every exposed rivet, and sculpted air intake would represent its era of design. Each decade and manufacture had its own distinctive trend and design. Race events during the 20th century were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, especially races such as the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio which sadly no longer exist, but gave us a look at some of the best-looking cars.
The Targa Florio
The Targa Florio was an open road endurance race held in the villages and mountains of Sicily. Founded in 1906, it was the oldest sports car racing event, it was also part of the World Sportscar Championship between 1955 and 1973. However, fatalities led to its closing because it was hailed too dangerous to race these high-performance race cars to their limit on curvaceous roads where civilians stood watching. With more than 2,000 hard, slow, and blind corners, drivers had to use their sixth sense to battle these types of cars on these winding bends and multiple hairpin curves that lay on treacherous mountain roads.
Vincenzo Florio was a wealthy man who made his money in wine and spices. One day on his honeymoon he got inspired by other early car races elsewhere in Europe, and he decided to create one of his own in Sicily, Italy. The original Targa Florio circuit was a hundred-kilometer loop of 900 different bends and corners that the navigators had to remember. With the 6-kilometer Finella straight, which is actually longer than De la Sarthe's Mulsanne straight, and corner-filled mountains, the ever-so-powerful race cars couldn't really race wheel to wheel. This is why they set them the drivers at two-minute intervals.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Since the Targa Florio was held during the 'golden age' of automobiles, this prestigious endurance race saw one of the most beautiful cars to have ever existed. There are four particular years that stuck out the most. Starting with 1962. The 1962 Targa Florio was a memorizing site to see. With cars such as the Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari 246 SP, Porsche 718 RS 61 driven by the likes of Graham Hill and Stirling Moss took place in the Italian race. It is safe to say no words can explain how stunning this race was. The motorsport-obsessed civilians would hear the cars rumble and shake the ground once they entered into a corner, watching the beautiful lines on the car while hearing the engines sing.
Mairesse, Rodriguez, and Gendebien came in first place with the Ferrari Dino 246 SP, Baghetti and Lorenzo Bandini followed behind with another Ferrari, the Dino 196 SP. And Porsche 718 GTR took third place with Vaccarella and Bonnier at its wheel. It is evident the Italians were jumping with joy...
Another incredible year that sticks out the most is 1966. Now if you're a massive motorsport and automobile fan, you know the year of 1966 by heart. It is a year that sticks out the most in motorsport, just like Ferrari and Formula 1 in the early 2000s with Michael Schumacher constantly dominating. Ford set out to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was, and still is the 'top' race to succeed at in the World Sportscar Championship, but to compete in the championship you would have to race at many endurance races. Such as the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Targa Florio. This means that Ford GT40's and Ferrari 330 P4's would caress the roads of Italy and fill the streets of Sicily with sweet, sweet music.
The Fords would rush through the streets and buildings that had Ferraris, Bandini's and Baghetti's name spray-painted all over them.
The 1966 Targa Florio took place May 8th, on the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie. Even though the iconic GT40s and 330 P4's took place, it was German engineering that won the race. The 1966 Porsche 906 Carrera 6 is one of the most eye-catching, unique, and lightest race cars to have ever raced on these roads. Its fiberglass body helped it be thrown into corners viciously. It's dipping high arched fenders/headlights, and its flat bonnet, not only made this car gorgeous, but also ahead of its time. The 906's power to weight ratio of the light body and mid-engined flat-6 assisted in the turn-filled track, whilst other cars were heavy in the corners due to their massive engines, the Porsche 906 Carrera 6 was able to rise above them and take a victorious win at the Targa with the other 906 Carrera 6 coming in third.
Guichet and Baghetti split the two Porsches in second place with the Ferrari Dino 206 S.
The 1970 Targa Florio was not far from beautiful either. The 1970 Targa Florio took place on May 3. It was held on a 44.6 miles anti-clockwise circuit made up of Italian public roads on the mountainous Sicilian landscapes. It was the fifth round of the 1970 World Sportscar Championship. This is when new regulations came in, and the cars started looking wider, longer, and some were integrated with open single-seater cockpits. The Gulf Porsche 908/03 driven by Joe Siffert and Brian Redman played out victorious. The Porsche 908/03 was constructed for the utmost lightweight performance. Taking victories in the World Sportscar Championship in 1970 and 1971, this car was truly a beast. It also took an incredible victory in the ever so dangerous Targa Florio, along with the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
It’s immensely lightweight body let the 908 corner like no other, although merged with its flat-8 engine, this Porsche was unstoppable on the menacing roads of Italy. However, the design was the most critical part of this unique car. The Porsche 908/03 was specifically and solely developed for hill climbs, which meant it needed great stability to go through the slow corners while being forced onto the ground. The lip spoiler was added to the designers' dislike of rear wings, yet, no rear wing means less downforce. Which led to the team of designers and mechanics finding small ways to generate enough downforce through the car
The front-wheel housings had to allow enough air through the brakes while decreasing the effect of lift force during high speeds. It was a difficult design to figure out. Not only was the body optimized to be super lightweight, but the engine was too. The 3.0L engine was then increased to 370bhp over time. Carrying aluminum cylinders, magnesium covers, and magnesium alloy crankcases, this car was able to be stripped down from all weight, to perform at its absolute best.
Porsche took a 1-2 lock out with both of their 908/03's with the rounded Ferrari 512 S taking third place.
The 1973 Targa Florio was no other than iconic. One of the most prestigious and infamous race cars of that time were entered into the menacing Targa Florio. Cars that might seem and sound familiar to you... the Ferrari 312 PB, the Alfa Romeo 33 TT 12, the Lancia Stratos, and the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR just to name a few. These visceral race cars driven by the likes of Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario were thrown into the corners as no other has ever seen before. The drivers would have to even jerk the steering wheels a bit to get the spectators out of the roads... only in Italy. However, Porsche kept bouncing back and showing their light over power concept as the 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR won the Targa Florio that year. The maniac and heavily skid platted Lancia Stratos came in second splitting the Carrera RSR's.
Imagine being able to experience this sight of brutal and gorgeous race cars blasting past you on your village's street. As the sounds and roars of the engines bounce off the buildings, and the spectators risking their lives just to see a Ferrari race by, the Targa was an event to experience. In 1977, the world's oldest sports car racing event was closed down for safety purposes, yet, we can still all look back and recall these beautiful cars we call art.
(All photos belong to their respective owners, I do not claim any of them)