Sadly those two iconic road races, the Targa Florio and Giro Di Sicilia, both instigated by Vincenzo Florio at the beginning of the last century, are consigned to the history books. No more the breathtaking sight of works Ferraris, Alfa Romeos or Porsches blasting along Sicily’s torturous mountain roads, no longer is it possible to stand in the beautiful Madonie Hills and listen for the approach of local hero Nino Vaccarella’s P3/4 Ferrari winding its way through one 44-mile lap of the 10-lap Targa Florio. Fortunately, all is not lost, thanks to the Palermo-based Veteran Car Club, Panormus, who for the past 19 years has staged an event that keeps the spirit of these two races alive.
As out and out races over public roads are a thing of the past, the V.C.C.P. has combined the routes of both events and turned them into a 7-day, 780-mile, regularity run for classic cars. Starting in the center of Palermo at 9:00 p.m. on June 3, the contestants headed westward to make an anticlockwise circuit of the island, finishing back on Sicily’s northern coast 6 days later, with the final day reserved for laps of the Piccolo (small) and Medio (medium) Targa Florio circuit. Just for good measure, as if contestants needed more exertions after days spent wrestling with full lock hair-pins, there were two hill-climbs included: the first up Montepellegrino (this year in pouring rain), the second a climb to the top of Mount Erice (this year through thick cloud) and, one of the highlights of the week, a day spent at the Syracuse race circuit giving both cars and drivers a chance to blow the soot off their plugs. Add to this a morning where the route took cars to just below the snowline of Mount Etna, one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, and you can see that the week was a real “work out” for a classic car. Some vehicles always fall by the wayside but most are patched up, often with competitors helping each other, and manage to complete the week.
Now all “work out” and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so the Giro is designed not only as a test of man and machine, but as Edoardo Vetri, president of the V.C.C.P., puts it, “A week that binds together a fascination for veteran cars, the beautiful Sicilian landscape and our hospitality.” Consequently, the course takes contestants over some torturous roads threading through magnificent scenery, but they find each lunch and overnight stop is usually held at some exotic location with a gastronomic delight awaiting them. Most years the entry is of about 50 to 60 cars so it doesn’t take long before strangers have become friends and are admiring each others’ vehicles, peering under each others’ hoods and exchanging stories.
This year the entry category was extended to allow the inclusion of modern Ferraris in order to mark that great manufacturers 60th year with one of these upstarts snatching victory: Archille Orlando in his 360 Modena. Next year’s entry will revert to its usual format with a cutoff point of 1971 giving the owners of classic cars a chance to follow in the footsteps of the greats and drive these historic roads.
By Roger Dixon