Nino Vaccarella, known as “Ninni”, the best Sicilian driver, winner of three editions of the Targa Florio, died at the age of 88. Born in Palermo on March 4, 1933, he was one of the most successful sports car drivers on an international level.
Ninni Vaccarella’s passion begins when, very young, he attends some editions of the legendary car tour of Sicily, wanted by Raimondo Lanza di Trabia with Stefano La Motta and Vincenzo Florio. He graduated in Law in 1956 and, after the death of his father, he immediately collaborated in the management of the family school, the Oriani institute, where he also began teaching before becoming its principal. Hence his famous nickname of “flying principal”.
A favorite of motorsport enthusiasts in Sicily, Vaccarella had begun his career as a driver in the 1950s, moving from uphill races to circuit racing. His first prestigious victory came with Ferrari at the 1000 km of the Nurburgring, in ’64 (the year in which the Maranello team won the world title), and a month later he also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1970, with Ignazio Giunti and Mario Andretti, he reached the highest podium at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
At the Targa Florio, the race he loved most, his first triumph came in ’65 paired with Lorenzo Bandini in the Ferrari 275P. Two victories with Alfa Romeo followed: in ’71 paired with Toine Hezmans and in ’75 with Arturo Merzario.
On the Madonie, the territory that hosts the Targa Florio circuit, still today – almost half a century after its last and victorious participation in the race – there are those who give a paint to its name that stands out on the walls of the track. The Municipality of Collesano, where there is a museum of the Targa Florio, “adopted” it, giving it honorary citizenship.