- Chuck Marra
Why is Targa Florio So Important?
In brief, Targa Floria is the race that put Alfa Romeo on the map.
Alfa Romeo built it's first car, the HP 24 in 1910 and modified it to race the next year in Targa Floria. they had some problems on the road and didn't finish that race. But they'd be back because Targa Floria was a big deal.
Targa Floria was started by a very man named Vincenzo Floria who, invited men with sports cars to come and race.. around Sicily.
Vincenzo Floria was the younger son of Sicilian nobility with a powerful wine business. His older brother was already in place to run the family business, which left Vicenzon free to travel the world. He was in Paris when he stumbled on a store with something that he had never imagined; a motorized tricycle.
Soon he was back in Sicily with his new toy ready to try it when he realized that there was no gasoline anywhere in Sicily. Desperate times require desperate measures, but the nice part of being the son of nobility is that you can order a shipment of gasoline from elsewhere in the world, in this case, Paris.
The excitement of his new toy began to dull he wanted to race. However, being the only man with anything that had a combustion engine, he was forced to undertake racing cyclists and men on horses. Legend has it that the motorized cycle overheated and the horse beat him.
Eventually, his attention turned to cars. Once again, being the only owner of anything motorized in Sicily, he invited other owners of motorized toys, in this case, automobiles, to Sicily to race with him. In 1906 commissioned a 'Targa" (Italian for 'Plaque") and he hosted a 96-mile race around Sicily. All drivers had to do is complete a single lap around the island.
This was not your grandfather's race (well actually it might be). Race drivers had to navigate the very old road, some that hadn't been touched since the middle ages. In addition, the road itself was not closed off, so if you could complete this single lap without running into goats, and children, and bandits, and if you could manage to not get eaten by Sicilian wolves, and do all this faster than anyone else, well then, you won.
Targa Floria became a thing, and in 1923, Alfa Romeo produced a car that did win in the one, two three, and four spots and put them on the map. More on that later, but that is one of the reasons why the Targa Florio is important to Alfisti.
For more information on the Targa Floria, check out the really well-written article: http://www.grandprixhistory.org/targaflorio1.htm.
Also, check out the the stunning Alfa Romeo History page: