With its origins in the high-speed road race conquered by legends such as Sir Stirling Moss and Sandro Munari, Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia is based on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and uses all-asphalt stages over a competitive distance of 170 kilometres.
The event replaces the Canon Mecesk Rallye on the IRC schedule for 2012 after organisers of the Hungarian rally were forced to end their two-year agreement with IRC promoter Eurosport Events due to economic constraints. Eurosport Events immediately began negotiations with ACI Palermo to partner with one of the oldest and most prestigious motorsport competitions in existence.
As well as counting as a round of the IRC, Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia is also part of the prestigious Campionato Italiano Rally, the Italian Rally Championship, and competitors from that series will be eligible for IRC points.
Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia is ideally timetabled taking place one month after round four, Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse. It will begin with a city stage on the evening of Thursday 14 June. With the finish scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday June 16, teams will be able to take overnight ferries to the cities of Genova or Livorno on the Italian mainland to enable their onward travel to Belgium for the GEKO Ypres Rally from 21-23 June.
“We are delighted to include the famous Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia in our schedule for 2012,” said IRC commercial director Antonello Lodoletti. “While we never like to adjust the calendar once the season is underway, we are delighted to welcome such a strong rally brand into the IRC. Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia will surely be one of the sporting hits of the season.”
The legendary Targa Florio is one of the oldest motorsport events in Italy, created in 1906 by amateur racer Vincenzo Florio. Originally it consisted of a road race around the whole of Sicily, but by the 1930s it was down to a 72-kilometre lap on public roads, called the Circuito delle Madonie – which was repeated 11 times. Covering nearly 1000 kilometres, drivers were usually split into teams of two.
The route was fearsome, consisting of several hairpin bends and narrow mountain roads with changeable grip, which the spectators adored. Many of the biggest heroes of the sport competed on the roads of the ‘Targa’: winners include Sir Stirling Moss, Vic Elford, Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari.
For a week before the race, drivers were allowed to practice with the roads still open: many of them were the actual race cars with temporary number plates attached. Although the roads were twisty and average speeds low, a number of accidents meant that the road race was discontinued after 1977.
Instead, the Targa Florio was resurrected as a stage rally in 1978, joining the Italian Rally Championship (where it still is now) and using sections of the original Madonie circuit. The Targa Florio has also formed part of the European Rally Championship.
The most successful driver on the event is reigning Italian champion Paolo Andreucci, who has won in Sicily six times.
It’s an event that has gone down in cultural as well as sporting history: Porsche named its open-topped cars ‘Targa’ as a tribute to this spectacular race.