Want To Drive The Targa Florio? Let Dan Do It


It might seem satisfying for anyone to go to their native lands where their ancestors and their family roots came from. It gives you stories to tell to loved ones and friends. But if you are Red Bull Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo, it means even more that it also includes driving an Alfa Romeo 33/TT/3, thanks to your boss that drove it 43 years before.

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Ricciardo just before coming to Sicily, the land of his roots, just happened to break the Top Gear lap record days before in England. And with that full satisfaction, came recently to the Southern Italian (or should I say, Sicilian) island to drive on of the greatest vintage motor racing courses in history, The Targa Florio.

The course began in 1906, which was organized by Vincenzo Florio, who was a great motor racing enthusiast. It over the decades involved at that time 1,006 corners per lap and the total distance of the race was 277 miles. The main grandstand as it still stands today are in the town of Cerda and the distance of the course is east of the island’s capital, Palermo, in the Madonie Mountains.

For Ricciardo, the vehicle that he would be driving belonged to his boss, Austrian Helmut Marko, who just happened to place second with this same vehicle in 1972. In those days, you could combine Formula One and Sportscar racing. But for the Australian, the new experience was nothing he could ever think of.

“Whatever you do something different, it is always nice.” Said Ricciardo. “It gives you a lot of satisfaction and you feel everything in the steering wheel, the pedals and you know that the car is old, but it still drives unbelievable.”

The event itself was not just the idea of Marko, but it also Red Bull’s in-house magazine, The Red Bulletin, who rearranged this trip. Marko himself was paired with Italian Nanni Galli when he drove the car, which when it occurred, was with a smaller circuit, but nevertheless, turned out recording a 33 minute 41 second fastest lap, despite losing out to Italian veteran Arturo Merzario.

“It is impressive, just to look at the tires, and the car is just a beast and the road is just crammed with sand. It would have scared me a little bit.” Ricciardo admitted.

When the Red Bull Renault driver took the vehicle out for the event, spectators, just like the old days, were crammed alongside the streets waiting to get a glance of the young driver. Pictures were taken, and autographs were signed, but Ricciardo was still impressed that a lot of people showed up to see him.

“You can tell that they are passionate about racing.” Ricciardo exclaimed. “They recognize the car straight away and they feel that they recognize me as well. It is funny, and all of them you know, they say you might be world champion one day, but only with Ferrari. It is raw, and it is the first time I ever drove a vintage racing car. It is cool.”

Cool enough for some, and green with envy for others.