Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Targa Florio truths
Targa Florio - with many thanks to Raymond Ainscoe and Gualtiero Repossi
It seems there was indeed a motorcycle race, run as a prelude to the Targa Florio's more famous Sicilian car race. But the Targa's founder, Vincenzo Florio, wasn't a huge bike fan and so it didn't get pushed the way the car event did. The Italian factories didn't complain, because with most races and factories in the North of Italy getting to Sicily was a major undertaking. This could explain why BMW's flat twins had such success at the Florio in the late twenties - Germans were being encouraged to compete abroad, Mercedes were entering the Targa Florio, and BMW had just launched their first car. Turning up a week early made for handy extra practice laps in the cars, and the chance to show off BMW's bikes and engineering.
The bikes mostly ran the shorter Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie road course, that was gradually adopted by the cars. As the clouds of war gathered bikes and cars moved to a much-truncated track-based version of the Florio, the last event being held in 1940. The new Gilera Saturno won the bike race, and Masserati took every single place in the car event.
The car race got going again in 1948, but bikes were never to return to the Targa Florio. That's a big shame, because while road-racing was banned in mainland Italy in 1957, the Sicilians refused to play ball and carried on until 1977 - racing GT40s, Alfa 33s and Ferrari 312s on mountain roads. Imagine an NCR Ducati or Laverda V6(!) in that mix...