Giro Di Sicilia - Targa Florio 4 - 11 June 2007
This year’s Giro proved to be a week full of contrasts with the weather ranging from torrential rain, through fog and mist, to 28deg of sunshine. In order to mark Ferrari’s 60th anniversary, the event organisers, the Veteran Car Club Panormus, extended this year’s entry category to include modern Ferraris, this move provided a list of cars that ranged from Ludger Ter Smitten’s beautiful little 1949 MG TC to Jim Glickenhaus’s fantastic 2006 Ferrari P4/5.
If you add to this roads that included the flat sweeping curves of the Syracuse circuit, the twisting up-and-down hill corners of the Targa Florio course, a night run through the city traffic of Palermo, and two timed hill-climbs, you can see that the event had something to test every car and driver.
Grey clouds and pouring rain greeted contestants on the morning of day one of this seven day event, as they gathered at the foot of Montepellegrino for the first hill-climb the roads were awash with soil-filled rainwater looking as if the hill was moving down to meet the cars. They all made it to the top eventually, but not without incident for some, nothing serious just the odd indiscretion at some of the tighter turns. That evening the cars returned to the centre of Palermo to start a night run which finished in Custonaci on the islands north western tip, the start brings the city’s traffic to a halt, these classic cars always manage to take the capital by surprise with onlookers seeming to not quite believing what they see.
After the first overnight stop the event proceeded to Mount Erice finding it shrouded in low cloud the field gathered at 10.30 for the second hill-climb, this time rain was not so much of a problem as the visibility with cars having to grope their way through the fog to the top. That afternoon the run was to Agrigento via the Valley of the Temples, thankfully the weather improved and by the end of the day the evening sun was shining.
The third stage consisted of a road section, part of which was timed, taking the cars via lunch at the fabulous Villa Fegotto to Syracuse, a run of 271KM, ready for day four where the town’s historic race circuit was to be the place of competition. By now a few of these classics were feeling the effects of the improved weather, some had to have radiator grilles removed to increase the cooling airflow, so a chance to stretch their legs around the circuit was eagerly awaited and they were not to be disappointed.
Little used, and crying out for some investment, the old circuit seemed to spring back into life at the sound highly tuned engines once again reverberating from its pits, although the thermometer rose to 28 deg C it was agreed that everyone had had a great day following in the footsteps of the masters from the 1950s as they moved off to Aragonesi for the overnight stay.
The rest of the Giro-Targa Florio can best be described as the “time of a thousand corners”. Stage five being a timed run winding its’ way up Mount Etna, to just below the snow line, then after lunch tumbling down eastwards to the coast and a night in Giardini Naxos overlooking the sea and mainland Italy. By now what had started out as a group of competitors had evolved into a group of friends enjoying a wonderful week of motoring together; infected by the warmth of Sicilian hospitality, strangers only a few days ago, participants helped each other, shared tools and even mechanics, with each meal together taking on a party atmosphere. Nino Fiorello won the day’s trial in his Mercedes 300SL Roadster, Nino had been in partnership with Clay Regazzoni to the better the lot of Italy’s disabled people, when he announced he was dedicating his win to all his disabled “brothers” he received a standing ovation and brought a lump to everyone’s throat.
The last but one day took competitors from Sicily’s north eastern tip over the wild flower encrusted Peloritani hills to the island’s northern coast followed by a run westward along the sinuous Mediterranean flanked road back towards Palermo ending at Cefalu. A 242 Km run through wonderful scenery with, unusually, a down hill timed section but agreed by all to be one of the best days motoring yet.
The Veteran Car Club Panormus saved the best to last - the Targa Florio. Not only a lap of the Piccolo circuit but one of the Medio circuit as well were set for the final day and by the end participants waxing lyrical about the challenge they had just completed. Afterwards the organisers managed to get everybody back to the hotel in time to watch the Canadian Grand Prix on a large screen specially set up for the occasion, how about that!
Italian driver Achille Orlando and navigator Enza Luzio were overall winners in their silver Ferrari 360 Modena proving that a fast car can also be driven with great accuracy in a regularity event. They may have been the winners but in this competition there were no losers as all the teams enjoyed themselves immensely, no other event gives contestants the opportunity to drive over so much hallowed motor-racing ground, the Targa Florio, Giro Di Sicilia and the Syracuse circuits are all iconic places in their own right, but be able to follow in the footsteps of Nuvolari, Varzi, Moss, von Trips, Brooks and Van Lennep all at once makes this a special week and to be able to shake the hand of the great Nino Vaccarella, who was there to present the awards, makes it a very special week indeed.
Next year’s dates are 1st to 9th June 2008
For details: www.girodisicilia.it
Story and photos by Roger Dixon - all strictly copyright. For further information please visit www.rogerdixonphotography.com
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