Nino Vaccarella, known as Ninni, the best Sicilian driver, winner of three editions of the Targa Florio, died at 88. Born in Palermo on March 4, 1933, he is one of the best sports car drivers on an international level.
Ninni’s passion began when he was very young when he attended 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 immediately collaborated in the management of the family school, the Oriani Institute, where he also began teaching before becoming its principal, hence the nickname “Flying Dean”. In addition to the Florio plate, he participated in the 100 km of the Nurburgring, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 1000 Km of Monza.
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 ’70, with Ignazio Giunti and Mario
Andretti, climbs on 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. Graduated in law, after the untimely death of his father he directs the family’s private school in Palermo (hence the nickname of Flying Principal) and shares his passion for sports with work among the desks that he will leave only to retire.
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.
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