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Targa Florio ’73: last of the real road races

Submitted by on November 14, 2014

Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Muller

An important chapter of sportscar racing came to an end on May 13th 1973 when the last ‘proper’ Targa Florio took place on the 45-mile Piccolo Madonie circuit on the Italian island of Sicily. Since the early part of the 20th century – 1906 to be precise – the world’s finest endurance drivers and leading sportscar manufacturers had taken on the torturous mountain roads in an event devised by wealthy Italian enthusiast Vincenzo Florio.

The event’s importance could not be overstated – in the early 1920s, when burgeoning marques such as Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Mercedes began to assert themselves by winning the Targa, the Le Mans 24 Hours and Mille Miglia had not yet even been devised.

A round of the prestigious world sportscar championship since 1955, the Targa quickly became too dangerous in the minds of many. Austrian ace Helmut Marko was moved to describe it as “totally insane”, so its position on the international calendar was fragile.

Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Muller

The 1973 event, the 19th and last world championship qualifier, resulted in a famous victory for one of the ‘little’ cars – a Porsche 911 Carrera RS. Pitched against the faster prototype racing machines from Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, the 911, driven by top Porsche exponents Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Muller, took advantage of the problems that befell the two factory Ferrari 312Ps of Arturo Merzario/Nino Vaccarella and Jacky Ickx/Brian Redman and the sole works Alfa T33 of Rolf Stommelen/Andrea de Adamich.

Chevron B21 chases Porsche 911 RSR

Vaccarella suffered a puncture on the second of 11 laps – the long drive on the wheel rim probably accounting for halfshaft failure and subsequent retirement – while the Ickx/Redman car retired after contact with the scenery. The sole flat-12 Alfa (the Clay Regazzoni/Carlo Facetti car was all-but destroyed in practice) was involved in a collision with a backmarker on the fourth lap, after Stommelen had set the race’s fastest lap.

Disaster for the big boys, then, but it was the superbly driven Martini Porsche that secured victory, ahead another of the production-based cars, the Lancia Stratos of Jean-Claude Andruet and ’72 winner Sandro Munari.

57th Targa Florio, May 13 1973

1st: Gijs van Lennep (NL)/Herbert Muller (CH)-Porsche 911 Carrera RS – 6h54.19.9s

2nd: Jean-Claude Andruet F)/Sandro Munari (I)-Lancia Stratos – 7h00m30.7s

3rd: Claude Haldi (CH)/Leo Kinnunen (FIN)-Porsche Carrera RS – 7h12m42.7s

4th:Frank McBoden’ (I)/Luigi Moreschi (I)-Chevron B21-Ford – 7h17m34.6s

5th: Silvio Moser (CH)/Antonio Nicodemi (I)-Lola T290-Abarth – 7h25m35.7s

6th: Giulio Pucci (I)/Gunter Steckkonig (D)-Porsche Carrera RS – 7h27m30.1s

Henry Hope-Frost

Another great video here

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