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The Targa Florio is the world’s longest-running significant road racing event.   The initial race in 1906 was staged by Vincenzo Florio on a circuit consisting of the most challenging Sicilian mountain and coastal roads. A further 100 editions of this famous race have attracted the cream of the world’s sports/racing cars and drivers.

When the Targa Florio organisers decided to licence an overseas organisation to conduct a complementary event, a Victorian-based group of Italian motoring and business interests put together an extremely well researched proposal.  They secured formal backing from the Victorian Government and the locally based Italian Consulate General – both these parties well recognised the potential for this event to strengthen the already strong ties between the two countries.  Against strong competition from historic motoring interests in the United States, the Victorian group secured the right to stage the event.

Officials and volunteers from the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport ensured compliance with national competition and safety rules.

The Staged Route

The event consisted of four stages.  Some of southern Victoria’s most interesting and challenging coastal, valley and mountain roads were traversed by competitors.  A map detailing the route and stages is set out below.


The Competition

In order to sort the relative skills of participants and to ensure they followed the correct roads, a number of competitive elements were included in each route.  These consisted of Time Trials, Regularity Tests and average speed tests, similar to the tests now applied in events such as the Mille Miglia.  We were provided with a rally device which greatly assisted these challenges.

Eligible Vehicles

Vehicles within the following categories were eligible to participate in the event:

  • Group 1: Classic Vehicles Competition:-FIA recognised vehicles built 1906 – 76.
  • Group 2: CAMS recognised vehicles to 1976.
  • Ferrari Vehicles Trophy Category: post-1976 cars.

Participants and their cars

Most of the entrants drove 60-70s Italian cars: Alfa Romeos, Lancias and Ferraris.  Porsches were predominantly variations of the classic 356s – appropriate given the marque’s repeated success with competition variants of these cars in the Targa Florio in the 60s and 70s.  British sporting cars included a 4.5 L Bentley (which would have been a handful), Jaguar 120s and E type, MGs and a Healey which surprised the field.  The USA was represented by the unique Tucker and a Mustang.

Overall, the field closely matched manufacturers participating in the 1930-76 Targa Florio series.

A significant proportion of the entrants came from Italy.  Most were supported by the Sicilian Targa Florio organization or sports motoring-related firms including Zagato, who sponsored Giordano Mozzi/Stefania Biacca (the event winners), and were responsible for the two-seater sports racing body on our Alfa.  Mozzi had won the Mille Miglia Retro in 2014 in an Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 SS, the predecessor of our car, and was also successful in a Lancia Lambda.

Other significant participants included the very lively ‘cowboy’ Arturo Merzario, in a 2 litre Alfa Sports, who won the 1972 &75 Targa Florios and Ms Savina Confaloni in a 356 Porsche and acted as a very animated MC at several of the evening social functions.

Savina’s article on the event appeared in the Roman based Libero Quotidiano on the final day of the event – Sunday 3 December.  For those who read Italian or learned Latin at school, a copy is featured on the following page.

Given the outstanding success of this year’s event, one can anticipate greatly enhanced numbers next year.

Historic Motoring Competition a Lawson family affair!

Both the cars we entered in this event had Targa Florio connections.

1. Alfa Romeo supercharged 6C 1750 SS 1929

The original Calabrian owner purchased it through his local friend and Alfa Team driver Guido D’Ippolito.  The car retains its Catanzaro Plate – CZ 1489.  It ran in a number of southern Italian motoring events in the late 20s – early 30s, including attendance at the 1930 Targa Florio.  It had clocked 8,342 km when taken off the road in 1934.

We became the second owners in 1972 after being advised of the car by Luigi Fusi.  At the time we were seeking parts for our ‘Mrs Jones’ 6C 1750-SS, subsequently owned by Di (Davison) Gaze, Terry Forrest and now by former Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan.


2. Lancia Aurelia B20   1st Series Viotti assembly 13

This car, driven by Francesco Toia of Corsa Torino, retired in the mountains on the first lap of the Targa Florio.  The car competed in a number of Italian events in the early 50s after which it was parked in the open behind a workshop.  Brought to Australia during the 80s in complete but very poor condition, it was still painted in Lancia’s distinctive period racing green.

The Lawson family restored the car and have used it in events and for pleasure for the past 28 years.



Lancia Aurelia B20 – the only production sports car to win the Targa Florio

Engineer Francesco De Virgilio, with former Alfa designer Vittorio Jano, worked progressively from 1942 on the development of the V6-engined, independently sprung Aurelia as a replacement for the V4 Aprilia.  In the mid-40s he married Vincenzo Lancia’s niece Rita.

From 1949 they produced the B10 (1.75 L) compact saloon – it was an instant success for every day motoring and in rallies.   The B20 2 L coupé was released in 1951, in response to growing demand for a more powerful sports version.

Sports racing success came soon after with Bracco’s second placings in the Mille Miglia in April and at Le Mans in June.  At the conclusion of the Mille Miglia, Bracco’s engine yielded almost 80 bhp in contrast to the victorious V12 Ferrari’s 250+ bhp.  The 500 1st series cars, which included 50 cars built by the Turin firm Viotti, were keenly sought by discerning sporting motorists.

The B20’s greatest racing success – first three places in the 1952 Targa Florio

The uprated 2nd series B20s soundly thrashed the cream of the specialist sports racing makers in the 1952 Targa Florio.  Winning driver Bonetto, after a gruelling seven hour drive, and despite running out of petrol and having to push the car over the finishing line with the aid of the starter, won in record time.  The cars had been lightened, the interiors stripped, perspex windows and bucket seats fitted and a few extra bhp extracted from the motor; reliability, torque and superior handling won the day!

 Felice Bonetto pushing B20 over the line to win 1952 Targa Florio

Tarmac rallying- Targa Tasmania – a personal comment

Andrew, Linda, Paul and I enjoy few motoring experiences more than driving our historic cars flat out on the closed road stages of tarmac rallies.  It has been our good fortune that the best of these events, over the past quarter of a century, has been Targa Tasmania, closely followed by Classic Adelaide in the years it was staged.  We competed in 19 of these events for 17 podium finishes and 13 outright wins in the pre-1950 class.  Most of these were achieved in our 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 B supercharged Spider, which hasn’t been beaten in any event since the clutch slipped in the 2001 Targa Tasmania.  Of its total mileage in our hands in 30 years of 109,000 km, just over 80,000 km has been in competitive events – great fun in what has consistently proved to be Australia’s most successful pre-war sports/ competition car!  We will continue these shared pleasures with our grandchildren.

For this reason we were initially somewhat sceptical in relation to the Targa Florio Australia Tribute.  In our view this event, due to its choice of roads, excellent conception and implementation, more than answered our doubts – we will enter the Alfa Spider in next year’s Tribute.

Roads as good as the world’s best for Historic Motor Rallying

Each stage had its surprises. For us the standouts were the Otway sections, particularly the recently paved Turton’s Track on Stage Two, the twisty roads of West Gippsland and the spectacular Warburton/Woods Point/Marysville Road.  Whilst we have ridden horses along many of the West Gippsland and Southern Mornington Roads and (as occasional participants in Ian Mawson’s ‘attack the hills and valleys at dawn’ group) enjoyed the Woods Point/Marysville Rd,, we had never done so in intermittent rain driving a 20s cart sprung car on skinny tyres.  We were particularly pleased that none of the potentially much faster 60s/70s sports cars caught or passed us in these challenging stages; ample testimony to the handling and speed of what is generally acknowledged to be ‘the world’s first significant two seater sports car- Alfa Romeo’s supercharged 6C 1750 SS.

Overseas and interstate competitors greatly enjoyed the Great Ocean Road, and the spectacular landscapes of many ever-changing twisting roads through ranges and valleys.


Results – the Official Winners.   In my view everyone was a winner!

General Classification

Place Car No. Driver/s Type Points lost
1st 10 G. Mozzi / S. Biacca 1954 Porsche 356 2,708
2nd 18 B. Morrison / K. Kerr 1958 Porsche 356 B 2,910
3rd 11 P. Williams / A. Williams 1959 Austin Healey 3000 3,335



Porsche in ascendency!

Porsche has a very proud history in the Targa Florio.  A succession of cars derived from the early 356 models were active in European sports car racing, including Le Mans and the Mille Miglia, generally winning their class, from the early fifties.

The success of the 356 was soundly based on similar principles as the Lancia Aurelia B20, under development at the same time; excellent handling due to all-independent suspension, balance and comparatively light weight, a wind cheating coupé profile and durable, reliable power.   However, unlike the B20, the placement of the engine with the transmission at the rear rendered this task somewhat more difficult.   As with all effective sports cars, the handling and performance was steadily improved.

In 1956 Italian driver Umberto Maglioli scored a decisive outright victory in the Targa Florio, driving a type 550A sports/racing Porsche powered by a 130 bhp four cam variant of the classic 4cyl. engine, but placed in front of, rather than behind, the transmission, markedly improving the balance.  A similar less powerful engine was used in both the limited series production types 550 A and 356A Carrera models.  In the following 18 years Porsche came to dominate the event with 10 outright victories.  The marque’s victory in this year’s Tribute is therefore entirely appropriate.

We have always enjoyed driving our 356 and early 911 Porsches.  Their handling is remarkably similar to that of our 1938 Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia Spyder, it’s superior suspension having been designed under licence by Ferdinand Porsche in 1935.  As previously noted, Jano applied these principles to the rear suspension of the early B20s with equal success in events including the Targa.  We will run our rare 911L in a future Targa Florio Australia Tribute.

In sports/production car racing everything is interconnected, and technically driven designers learn from rivals.  Superior handling and useful torque wins in the hills and valleys.



Le Mans 1952  Lurani won 1500cc class –  in an early   356


 Type 550A at Rouen 1958    Jean Behra


The winners: Giordano Mossi/Stefano Biacca, 1954 Porsche 356  in the wet through the forest


Long term Targa Tasmania competitors Stewart/Alex Webster in 911 engined 356

In the years when the Lawsons and the Websters competed successively in their respective classes in Targa Tasmania, Jim Richards and Barry Oliver dominated the open class in their Porsches.  We always parked beside them at night and attended to servicing.

I can’t resist adding the following long-term Targa Tasmania competitors, who occupied the next two places in the Targa Florio Australia Tribute.



Place Car No. Driver/s Type Points lost
4th 7 A. Lawson / L. Lawson 1951 Lancia Aurelia B20 3,358
5th 16 S. Webster / A. Webster 1963 Porsche 356 4,075

And a couple of equally keen Targa participants who couldn’t take the blustery rain from the start of  Day 2, and erected the hood but effectively masked their rally transmitter, thus depriving the organisers and themselves of any record of the three last days; not that they didn’t enjoy the protection.

Place Car No. Driver/s Type Points lost
2nd last 9 J. Lawson / P. Lawson 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 45,192


The Ferrari Trophy was won by racing identity Alfredo Costanzo & Carlo Travaglini, who had spent his childhood in a Calabrian village, near the estate of the former owner of our Alfa R.

Evening Frolics – eating, drinking, talking and singing in buses.
What more could one desire?

The organisers and their sponsors indulged competitors with a truly remarkable and pleasurable array of cocktail parties/ feasts at Lorbeks in Port Melbourne, Costa’s Restaurant on Cunningham Pier at Geelong Waterfront (a personal long-term project), Cape Schanck National Golf Club and the Rochford Winery in Healesville.  One couldn’t wish for better places to socialise and socialise we did; our local Italian competitors/ organisers/ officials including Linda happily acting as interpreter-bridges with the overseas contingent.

Similarly, appropriate accommodation was provided and buses operated between the venues. The happy revellers heading to their hotels each night celebrated by singing an interesting collection of Italian/Australian period songs- what a joy!

The great success of this event was duly acknowledged by all speakers at the concluding celebratory presentation at the Etihad Function Room, Docklands, including Victorian and Italian Government representatives, Sicilian and local Targa Florio organisers and the winners speaking for other competitors. What a great Australian – Italian event!

Luca Bottallo, John Caniglia and John Westover of the ISTEEM Group deserved all the thanks and praise which was heaped on them. Having committed to stage the event at the same weekend in 2018, we the competitors should encourage our motoring enthusiast mates to enter. All of this year’s competitors have decided to re- enter.


The last of Jano’s masterpieces in the Ranges. He also designed our Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS
An Alfa Romeo Giulia105 is following the Lancia B20


The Alfa 6C 1750 SS-hood up- roaring through the Black Spur on the last day.

An early Jano masterpiece!


John Lawson        December,  2017



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