Dead Nino Vaccarella, the “flying principal” winner of three Targa Florio

Dead Nino Vaccarella, the “flying principal” winner of three Targa Florio
Dead Nino Vaccarella, the “flying principal” winner of three Targa Florio

The great Sicilian driver was 88 years old. In his palmares also a 24 Hours of Le Mans and a 12 Hours of Sebring. Montezemolo: “Name linked to many Ferrari companies”. He alternated between teaching races in the school opened by his father, of which he became the principal.

Vincenzo Bajardi

September 23
– Milano

Nino Vaccarella, known as Ninni, Sicilian driver, winner of three editions of the Targa Florio, died at the age of 88. Born in Palermo on March 4, 1933, nicknamed the “flying principal” because on the premature death of his father he dedicated himself to running the private school “Maria Montessori” and also the Oriani family owned by the family. His life is also told in a book Vaccarella, my automotive history.

From the beginning to Ferrari

He loved speed and took part in the first local races aboard the Fiat 1100, first of all the Passo di Rigano-Bellolampo time trial. Then he bought a Lancia Aurelia 2500 in ’58. The following year he bought a Maserati participating in the Trapani-Monte Erice uphill race. He was noticed by Count Giovanni Volpi, owner of a prestigious team and soon became an official Ferrari driver: he signed the place of honor with Scarfiotti in the 12 Hours of Sebring, then he won the 1000 km of the Nurbungring again with Scarfiotti, then he participated with Jean Guichet in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in ’64, then at the wheel of the Ferrari 275P and then moved on to Alfa Romeo. Of him, the former president of Ferrari, Luca di Montezemolo, said: “With Nino Vaccarella, a driver who has linked his name to so many victorious feats of Ferrari disappears, an ambassador of Sicily in the world and a fan and friend who is always been close to me and the Scuderia. In this sad moment – added Montezemolo – I am next to his family, to whom I express my deep condolences ”.

the F1 and the florio plate

In Formula 1 he competed in four Grand Prix races in three different championships: the Italian GP in ’61, ’62 and ’65 respectively with the De Tomaso, Lotus and Ferrari teams and the German GP in ’62 with Porsche. He won the Targa Florio in ’65 with Lorenzo Bandini in a Ferrari 275P, in ’71 with Toine Hezemans in an Alfa Romeo 33/3 Sport Prototipo and in ’75 with Arturo Merzario in an Alfa Romeo 33TT12 spyder. In the editions of ’62 and ’70 he finished third while in that of ’63 he was disqualified by a race commissioner as he did not have a driving license that had been withdrawn in ’61 due to a road accident in Pescara.

the return to maranello

Vaccarella has signed numerous victories in international Sport-Prototype competitions, winning the world title with Ferrari in ’64. In 1970 he returned to Maranello to drive the 512S in the Marche World Championship, winning the 12 Hours of Sebring with Ignazio Giunti and Mario Andretti, he was second in the 1000 km of Monza with Giunti, third in the 1000 km of the Nurbungring with John Surtees and fourth in the 1000 km of Spa still with Giunti. It should also be remembered the remarkable performance on a Ferrari 512M of the Spanish Montjuic team paired with Josè Juncadella.

appointment in cefalù

Now I like to remember an episode when I received a phone call from the Ferrari Press Office in the second half of 2014. “Hello, can you be found in the Piazza del Duomo in Cefalù, tomorrow at noon? There will be a surprise for you. one of our representatives with a red overalls of our brand was waiting for her “. Intrigued, but not surprised, I go to the appointment. And at the stroke of the X hour in the wonderful old town a smiling girl comes towards me. “Good morning, Doctor Bajardi, the countdown can begin …”. And in the distance you can hear the unmistakable sound of a Red. It is the Ferrari California T, a high-performance grand touring sports car with convertible-coupé bodywork. At the wheel is Nino Vaccarella. “Get on Vincenzo, I will offer you a ride on the 72 km of the historical route of the race invented by Vincenzo Florio”. What a joy! The Maranello company returned to the turbo engine after almost thirty years (the last was the F40 in 1987). The engine is a 3,885 cc V8 equipped with two turbos with which it reaches maximum power of 560 Hp and a torque of 755 Nm at 4,750 rpm, power per liter of 145 Hp and more powerful than 70 Hp compared to the naturally aspirated California, acceleration from 0 to 100 times in 3 “6, speed ceiling of 316 km / h.

in the car with the principal

Many recognize Vaccarella and the applause is not lacking. Vaccarella leaves the city center quickly and in a flash we reach the stands of Cerda where a photographer is waiting for us. From there the hypothetical flag is raised and off to the beaten track towards Cerda. Seeing the “flying principal” at work is an indescribable emotion, he brushes the curves like a money order painter, touches the steering wheel with skilful skill, the gearbox goes along wonderfully. Uses little of the CCM3 carbon ceramic brake system with sporty ABS. He knows every curve by heart. It enters and exits the hairpin bends perfectly.

among the artichoke fields

A car that fully satisfied the goal that the Ferrari engineers had set to eliminate turbo-lag and for the sound of the engine a careful study was made that evokes the historic Ferrari turbo of the 80s and thanks to details such as the three-purpose drain. The road surface is somewhat bumpy but there is F1-Trac traction control. During a brief stop for photographic needs Vaccarella points out to me that with the help of Pininfarina the front headlights and the bumper have been revised and the 250 Testa Rossa is recalled on the side. I have no fear. And away again towards Caltavuturo, Collesano with the people looking out from the balconies when they welcome that Vaccarella is there. Then the straight road of Buonfornello, the expanse of artichokes, Campofelice, the railway station of Cerda.

targa florio, a unique race

“The Targa Florio is not the Nurbungring with its 1000 km – Vaccarella told me – it is not Monza with its circus, it is not Le Mans with its people waiting, it is not Daytona, it is not Sebring, to remember some stages of the Constructors ‘World Championship. It is a unique race, unrepeatable with spectators’ penetration into the spectacle, such as in the Cycling Tour of Italy or the Tour de France. When the World Targa was raced there were 700,000 people along the track. Di Florio ce there is only one, as Marcello Sabatini, Gian Paolo Ormezzano, Luigi Gianoli, Michele Fenu, Gianni Cancellieri, Paul Frere, Ferruccio Bernabò, Gianni Rogliatti, Eric della Faille, Bruno Nestola, Giorgio Gregori wrote at the time “.

what a fabric

As said Vaccarella, born on 4 March 1933, in his roll of honor boasts three successes at the Florio plate, one with Bandini and Ferrari in 1965, a year earlier he signed the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he competed as an official driver also with Alfa Romeo. After 18 years of activity, over 120 races, nine participations in F1, knight in the order and merit of the Italian Republic. He wrote a book of his memoirs. Many years ago he invited me to a Panathlon meeting in Caltanissetta, there was still no highway. It is useless to describe how we arrived at our destination in an astonishing time to the amazement of those present. But driving was fun for him in complete safety. So I too in my small way made use of his talent behind the wheel. A stellar, sharp, very fast driver.

September 23, 2021 (change September 23, 2021 | 17:05)


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