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Next section meeting - Thursday 31 August at The Bull Hotel, Bull Lane, Wrotham, Kent, TN15 7RF.

Nino Vaccarella by Mark Fuller

Nuvolari Photo 1

My admiration for Tazio Nuvolari is no secret amongst my friends. However, no true admirer of great driving could overlook the achievements of another man who tamed the Targa Florio, Nino Vaccarella.

Born on 4th March 1933, in Palermo, Vaccarella knew the Targa Florio like the back of his hand, winning the famous road race for Maranello on three occasions. His first foray in to the race came in 1960 when Vaccarella teamed up with Umberto Maglioli for the 1960 Targa Florio in a birdcage Maserati, which was owned by the Camoradi team. Maglioli had won the race twice previously and Vaccarella resided on the course. They took the lead in the early afternoon of 8 May, maintained it for three laps, and then broke down. The event was won by Joakim Bonnier and Hans Herrmann in a small silver Porsche.

In 1965 Vaccarella was paired with Lorenzo Bandini in the 1965 Targa Florio. The drove their Ferrari around the 10 twisting laps to claim victory in the 447.4 mile Sicilian event. They averaged 63.7 miles per hour and finished in 7 hours, 1 minute, 12.4 seconds.

Vaccarella a lawyer and teacher by trade was an accomplished sports car ace in the 1960s, sharing the 1964 Le Mans winning Ferrari 275P with Jean Guichet. He drove in four Formula 1 Championship races, his best result being ninth in the 1962 Italian Grand Prix at the wheel of a Lotus Climax entered by Scuderia SSS Republica di Venezia.

In 1965 Vaccarella was paired with Lorenzo Bandini in the 1965 Targa Florio. The drove their Ferrari around the 10 twisting laps to claim victory in the 447.4 mile Sicilian event. They averaged 63.7 miles per hour and finished in 7 hours, 1 minute, 12.4 seconds.

In a Ferrari 330, Vaccarella and Bandini led most of the way in 1966. Their car missed a turn on the seventh lap, ran off the road and was too damaged to continue. Vaccarella had been in the Ferrari when he waved his hand to acknowledge the cheers of enthusiastic fans. He made contact with a retaining wall that was inscribed Viva Nino.

In 1967 Maglioli and Vaccarella piloted a Ford GT40 to fifth place in the 1967 Sebring 12 hours but glory was to follow on home turf…..

On the 8 May 1968, Giornalia Di Sicilia proclaimed in its headline, Only Vaccarella Can Bring Off The Miracle. This referred to he Sicilian driver's great task of gaining victory in the Targa Florio in his 2.5-litre Alfa Romeo, called the Tipo 33.


1968 Targa Florio Squadra Alfa Romeo

He was up against four German competitors who were driving Porsche 910s. The Porsches had recently swept the endurance races at Daytona and Sebring. Few experts gave the four Alfa Romeos much of a chance against the flawless Porsches, but Sicilians trusted in the skill of Vaccarella's driving.

Vaccarella qualified eighth for the 1970 Daytona 24 hrs in a Ferrari 512s. This was one of a series of 11 endurance events held in Europe and North America for the 1970 world manufacturers championship.

Vaccarella and Toine Hezemans won the 1971 Targa Florio in an Alfa Romeo. They crossed the finish line over a minute ahead of Andrea de Adamich and Gijs van Lennep, who also drove an Alfa Romeo. This race ended the dominance of Porsche, which had finished first in the previous five Targa Florio races.


Vaccarella competed in the 1972 Sebring 12 hrs in one of four Alfa Romeo 33/3TT's to be entered in the event. His driving partner was Nanina Galli. They qualified fifth after another Alfa Romeo of Rolf Stommelen and Peter Revson, who started third.

After winning the 1964 Le Mans 24hrs the former headmaster became the local hero of the Targa Florio race after winning in 1965, then repeating the feat in 1971 and again in 1975.

He also drove the big V12-powered Ferrari 512SS in a heroic yet ultimately futile effort in 1970, damaging the car in the final stages.

Vaccarella participated in five World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 10 September 1961. He scored no championship points. He also participated in several non-Championship Formula One races.
There we have it, a potted history of another of my heroes of motor sport . Just in case you doubted my devotion, for the centenary of Alfa Romeo in 2010, and much to the chagrin of purists in AROC I liveried my car, a GTV Cup in the colours and decals of a Targa Florio Tipo 33 of the 70’s.

So if you find yourself on a sunny day in deepest Kent, listening to the howl of an Arese V6 and cries of Viva Nino…that’ll be me.

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