Throwback Thursday – Targa Florio 1906

Cagno Wins The 1906 Targa Florio – (c) Pathe News

In my second Throwback Thursday feature article I look at the next race in the 1906 Grand Prix Season, the Targa Florio.

The Targa Florio was one of the very first and most challenging races. It was in 1906 when the inaugural race took place.

This race was the brainchild of a wealthy Italian businessman, Vincenzo Florio. He had made a vast fortune in Sicily and he was obsessed with cars. He initially approached a journalist in 1905 in a view to running the race but it wasn’t until 6th May, 1906 when the first ever Targa Florio would take place.

It would be a three laps of a 92.4 mile circuit in Sicily, near Palermo. Each lap would be treacherous as the roads were not designed for cars. Drivers would encounter wild animals during the race and were also at the risk of being held up by bandits in the Madonie Mountains. Most of the route was made up of mule tracks and paths.

One of the main rules was that the entries had to be production cars, of which at that time only ten had been made. One of the entrants, Vincenzo Lancia, organised the betting which in those days was very common at motorsport events. Thirty cars had initially entered the race but due to a dock strike in Genoa travel plans were hampered and only ten drivers made it to the start line.

There were ten minute intervals between cars, Lancia was the first away in his Fiat but he retired due to mechanical failure. The next driver away was Jacques Le Blon driving a Hotchkiss, accompanied by his wife and mechanic Madame Le Blon. They would be the last of the six finishers to cross the line due to a number of punctures suffered over the course.

Maurice Fournier and his brother Achille entered two cars, both Clement-Bayard’s but they would not see the end of the race due to failures, as too would the British entry George Pope driving an Itala.

The other five cars to finish ahead of Le Blon were made up of two Italians, two Frenchmen and a Belgian. Alessandro Cagno, an employee of Itala brought the car home in just over nine and half hours, averaging a speed of 29mph. He was followed by another Italian driving an Itala, Ettore Grazione. Paul Bablot driving a Berliet finished third and his fellow Frenchman Victor Rigal in an Itala was fourth. Finishing ahead of the Le Blon’s in fifth place was the Belgian driver Pierre de Caters.

So much of a success was the Targa Florio that it is still run today, though not in a competitive form.

The next race in the 1906 Grand Prix season would be the Circuit de Ardennes in Belgium and from this race only Paul Bablot would enter.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Cuban Road Race 1906

Lancia In His Fiat For The 1906 Cuban Road Race – Photo (c) Veloce

In a series of weekly articles covering Grand Prix and Endurance racing I will be looking at all the races in order from 1906.

1906 was the first Grand Prix racing season where specific races and designated Grandes Epreuves were held.

In this first instalment I will look at the first race of that season, the Cuban Road Race which took place on 11th February, 1906.

This was a “road race” to every letter of the word. Tens of thousands of spectators gathered along the roads and highways to watch four drivers race for the crown. Mahogany trees lined the roads from Havana through Artemisa and onto San Cristobal, a 54 mile route which the drivers would need to negotiate over four laps.

It had cost $30,000 to make and upgrade the circuit with four sharp turns and an array of curves peering down steep cliffs. There was no room for error on this treacherous course.  Havana had stumped up $7,000 with The Automobile Association of America putting up $14,000 in prize money.

Four cars would start the race, only one would finish one mile from the Camp Columbia where huge stands had been erected.

The drivers were sent off in three minute intervals. Bernin was first to go in his 90hp Renault, followed by the defending champion and favourite to winner Lancia in his 110hp Fiat. Third to be started was Cedrino driving a Gustav Roek 110hp Fiat and finally it was Demogeot in his 80hp Darracq.

Demogeot lost five minutes straight from the start due to a clutch problem with his competitors speeding off into the distance.

Cedrino was out of the race at the double curve near Artemisa, 40 miles from the start line. He struck a tree and both he and his machinist were taken to the Guanajay Hospital with serious injuries.

Lancia passed the town of Artemisa, he was absolutely flying and living up to the tag as favourite when disaster struck at the railroad crossing. His machinist, Battesta, was thrown from the car, suffering a fractured arm and that effectively put him out of the race.

Only two remained, Bernin in the Renault who was leading and Demogeot who was trying so hard to make up the lost time from his clutch problem.

Bernin reached San Cristobal first in just over 51 minutes, Demogeot reached the same stage in 54 minutes.

On the return journey Bernin suffered a puncture and it was so bad that the car could not be fixed. This left Demogeot as the only entrant still running but the course had taken victims and he could not count his blessings too soon.

Demogeot and his machinist, American Charlie Harragh, finished the race in 3 hours 38 minutes and 26 seconds.

Demogeot’s great speed was fairly maintained throughout, confirming the reputation of the Cuban road as being among the worlds fastest. Despite the drawbacks of three controls, sharp corners in the town of Marianao and with crowds spilling onto the road at the curving points, he made in the first half of the race an average of 61 miles an hour.

The next race in the series would be the Targa Florio at Madonie, one in which Vincenzo Lancia would feature again.

 

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing