XXI TARGA FLORIO
Medio Circuito Madonie - Palermo (I), 4 May 1930.
5 laps x 108.0 km (67.1mi) = 540.0 km (335.6 mi)
Varzi defeates Chiron in a relentless battle, breaking all existing records
by Hans Etzrodt
The 21st Targa Florio received entries from the entire French Bugatti équipe, to fight against factory teams from Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Officine Mecchaniche, plus many independents,
totaling 17 cars at the start. The race developed not only into a duel between Alfa Romeo and Bugatti but more into a gigantic battle between two men: Varzi and Chiron. After almost
seven tortuous hours through the mountainous Madonie, it ended with a narrow, well earned victory for Varzi, less than two minutes ahead of Chiron. When only 23 seconds behind on the
last lap, Chiron broke two of his Bugatti's wheels and had to cope with a very sick mechanic. In his awesome drive, Varzi had lost the single spare wheel of his Alfa Romeo, sprung a
fuel leak, and near the end the back of his car caught fire. The Italian survived all these difficulties in probably his most outstanding drive ever. By breaking the existing records,
he ended Bugatti's 5-year string of victories. Conelli, Campari, Nuvolari, Divo, Williams and Morandi drove near the front but were clearly in a lesser rank than the two leading
contenders. Maserati, D'Ippolito, Minoia, Borzacchini and Bittmann all survived the over seven hour ordeal, while Maggi, Balestero, Arcangeli, Divo and Ruggeri retired.
The 1930 Targa Florio regulations by Conte Vincenzo Florio did not specify any categories for the racing cars, and so it was Formula Libre. The prize money totaled 250,000 lire. For weeks
before the start, some drivers of Europe's elite were practicing with greatest care and persistence. Not only had the cars to be prepared, but also the drivers had to study and learn the
course. The Medium Madonie Circuit of 108 km length had to be lapped five times bringing the total distance to 540 km. One lap of the Polizzi circuit, in use since 1919, included about
1400 corners through the mountainous Madonie region, making the Targa Florio a race of over 7000 corners. The narrow circuit with its steep gradients was a true measure for driver and
machine. The start and finish took place at the Cerda train station. The road led several miles up to Cerda village at 273 meters altitude. From here the course twisted uphill through
Caltavuturo at 640 meters. From this village the tight, twisting circuit wound along the Madonie Mountains and turned back past a depot in the town of Polizzi, 917 meters above sea level.
Next tortuous hairpin bends followed, snaking downhill through the mountain village of Collesano at 500 meters and further on to Campofelice, just 50 meters above sea level. From there it
was downhill along the five km fast coastal straight where it was possible to use top gear and pass other cars. Then the circuit turned inland going uphill back to the start and finish
Before the closing date the organization committee had received two dozen entries, 15 from factories and 9 from the private sector. Four of those independent drivers did not appear. The same
was true for another four drivers without race numbers who were mentioned in the preview listing of La Stampa. The Italian factories Alfa Romeo, Maserati and O.M. lined up their latest red
cars against the blue cars from the French Bugatti team who had won every race here for the last five years. Another victory by a foreign car in this historic Italian race was unacceptable
for the extremely patriotic spectators and the now proud fascist country.
The Bugatti team, however, were looking forward to their sixth consecutive victory. Their drivers knew the circuit very well. The team was managed by Meo Costantini, winner of the 1925 and
1926 Targa Florios. They arrived with 140 hp, 8-cylinder, 2.3-liter type 35B grand prix cars. The drivers were Albert Divo, Targa winner the last two years, Count Conelli, second in 1927 and
third in 1928, Louis Chiron, fourth in 1928, and "Williams" (William Grover), who was driving here for the first time.
The Alfa Romeo factory team had arrived with two modified 175 hp, eight-cylinder, 2.0-liter P2 grand prix cars for the experienced Achille Varzi and Giuseppe Campari. They also had six of the
102 hp 6C-1750 sports cars, the same type which had won the Mille Miglia. The drivers were Tazio Nuvolari, Count Aymo Maggi, and Pietro Ghersi. During pre-race training it was learned that the
demanding 175 hp P2's were very fast. However, the handling was extremely difficult on this twisting, low speed circuit and the cars were too tiring for the drivers. The road holding of the
modified P2's was now less precise and the tires wore out too fast. Another problem had showed up about the extreme heat from the engine compartment. The Alfa Romeo team manager Aldo Giovannini
and Vittorio Jano, Designer and Engineer, considered these grand prix cars as too dangerous for this circuit. It was decided to scrap the two P2's and use the stripped six-cylinder 1750 cc
sports cars instead. Campari, 38 years old, was one of the most experienced and fearless drivers. He had driven in the Targa nine times since 1914, placing second in 1928. He was looking
forward to win here but happily took over Ghersi's 1750 sports car because the P2 radiated too much heat towards the driver and the overweight Campari was suffering from it. The 25-year-old
Varzi, who was driving here for the first time, preferred the P2's power advantage and insisted on driving the car in which he had won the Alessandria race two weeks before. Also, a preexisting
agreement with the factory permitted him to race this converted P2 in the Targa Florio. Reluctantly Jano agreed and selected Ghersi as Varzi's reserve driver since it was not expected that
anyone would be able to last the whole 540 km in the fatiguing P2. According to Luigi Fusi, under Jano's supervision the induction system of Varzi's P2 was reverted back to the old layout, with
the supercharger blowing through the carburetor. For safety reasons the car was also geared down from its top speed of 225 km/h to 190 km/h. The speed could not be lowered further since a
lower ratio was unavailable but provided awesome acceleration.
For the first time, the Maserati factory entered their new 185 hp 8C-2500 type 26M grand prix cars for team leader Baconin Borzacchini and Luigi Arcangeli while Ernesto Maserati and Luigi Fagioli
had 2.0-liter 26B's. However, Fagioli did not appear. Officine Meccanice had the type 665 6-cylinder cars, the same model that they entered in the Mille Miglia. Their drivers were the 45-year
old Fernando Minoia, Giuseppe Morandi, and Archimede Rosa. Rosa did not start, but the weekend before on April 26 he, with Morandi as co-driver, had won in an O. M. the 975 km long Giro di
Sicilia in new record time of 12h27m01.6s.
There were 12 private entrants, comprising the Czech Dr. Otakar Bittmann, Giuseppe Claves and Alessi, all in Bugattis. However, only Bittmann showed up for the start. Alfa Romeo privateers
were Guido d'Ippolito, Francesco Sirignano, Pariato, and Tranchiana, all with 6C-1500s but the last three did not appear at the start. Two private entries from Domenico Prince of Cerami, and
Cleto Nenzioni with 26B Maseratis also did not appear. There were three entries of independent O. M. 665's for Renato Balestrero, Amedeo Ruggeri, and Galliera. The latter did not show up.
Divo, the winner in 1928 and 1929, was considered favorite and many felt that the Alfa Romeos also had a good chance of victory.
In the first hours of Sunday morning an enormous pilgrimage of local enthusiasts arrived by train, car and on foot. They came to take possession of the best viewpoints around the whole circuit
before these were overcrowded. The race was well organized, and the spectators were informed of the latest developments through loudspeakers. From the 24 entries with race numbers, only 17
drivers showed up at the start. Riding mechanics were carried in the Targa Florio. The single car start at Termini began at 9:00 in the morning in order of the starting numbers. The drivers
were released at three minute intervals. Borzacchini's Maserati was the first to be sent into the race and Morandi followed next.
|9:18||18||d'Ippolito||Alfa Romeo |
|9:27||24||Ruggeri||O. M. |
Lap 1: Each driver was sent away with cheers by the frenetic crowd. Varzi, in twelfth place with race number 30, took off nine minutes after Chiron and roared away in his typical emotionless,
collected style. The cars were timed over the first 17 miles where Varzi was able to make up one minute on Chiron. Varzi came back from the first lap and sped past the grandstands after an
unbelievable 1h21m21.6s at a speed of 49.492 mph, breaking Minoia's previous year's record lap of 1h25m17s at 47.215 mph by almost four minutes. Nuvolari in second place was over one minute
back, with Campari about half a minute behind. In fourth place followed Chiron. The first six all bettered Divo's lap record from 1929. The opening lap had developed into a most promising
race for the Italians and Alfa Romeo. The spectators took this as a sure sign for Alfa Romeo's long overdue victory and a storm of frenzy erupted. After Maggi retired three kilometers from
the start and Balestrero ended his race in Polizzi, there were only 15 cars left in the race. The existing lap record established the previous year by Minoia in a Bugatti was broken not only
by the three leading Alfa Romeo drivers but also by Chiron, Divo and Conelli in the Bugattis. At the end of lap one the order was:
|1. Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||1h21m21.6s|
|2. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h22m53.6s|
|3. Campari (Alfa Romeo)||1h23m18.4s|
|4. Chiron (Bugatti)||1h23m27.0s|
|5. Divo (Bugatti)||1h24m01.0s|
|6. Conelli (Bugatti)||1h24m43.0s|
|7. Morandi (O.M.)||1h26m10.0s|
|8. Maserati (Maserati)||1h26m27.0s|
|9. Borzacchini (Maserati)||1h26m39.0s|
|10. Williams (Bugatti)||1h26m50.0s|
|11. D'Ippolito (Alfa Romeo)||1h28m37.0s|
|12. Minoia (O.M.)||1h28m47.0s|
|13. Arcangeli (Maserati)||1h29m33.0s|
|14. Ruggeri (O.M.)||1h31m58.0s|
|15. Bittmann (Bugatti)||1h36m49.0s|
Lap 2: The Alfa Romeos and Bugattis were already far ahead of the first Maserati and their advantage was growing. The race was a battle between Bugatti and Alfa Romeo. Varzi's Alfa had a
slight advantage over Chiron's Bugatti on the level coast road, while the Bugatti was superior in the mountains. The hard driving Chiron had moved ahead of Campari and Nuvolari on elapsed time.
Varzi carried on with almost unabated speed. His second lap was almost identical to his first, only six seconds slower but faster than anyone else, increasing his advantage to Chiron to 3m18s.
Chiron's Bugatti was now in second place and an Alfa victory was no longer a certainty. Arcangeli was the third to retire before reaching Polizzi. W.F. Bradley reported in his book that the
Italian's Maserati spun off the road in a bend with a locked brake and shot into a field where it rolled over three times. Neither driver nor mechanic was injured but Arcangeli had to retire
soon after. Bugatti and O.M. had their main depots in the mountain village of Polizzi. Divo stopped at that depot for fuel, oil and tires for only 58 seconds then rushed on. W.F. Bradley reported
that after Divo had driven over a little bridge above a deep ravine, he was fooled by the echo of his own exhaust and thought another car was immediately behind him. When he turned his head to check,
he missed the following bend, and his car slid up a very steep slope where it hit a rock which smashed the right front wheel then the Bugatti fell backwards and bent the front stub axle. After
the wheel was changed, Divo finished the lap and stopped at the Cerda pits to have the front axle checked. The right stub axle was bent and he was forced to abandon the race at the end of lap two.
After two laps, or 216 km the race was down to 13 cars.
| 1. Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||2h42m48.0s|
|2. Chiron (Bugatti)||2h46m06.4s|
|3. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||2h46m30.0s|
|4. Campari (Alfa Romeo)||2h47m00.8s|
|5. Divo (Bugatti)||2h47m50.0s|
|6. Conelli (Bugatti)||2h49m11.0s|
|7. Borzacchini (Maserati)||2h52m15.0s|
|8. Williams (Bugatti)||2h52m30.0s|
|9. Morandi (O.M.)||2h52m46.0s|
|10. D'Ippolito (Alfa Romeo)||2h56m46.0s|
|11. Minoia (O.M.)||2h58m55.0s|
|12. Maserati (Maserati)||3h01m40.0s|
|13. Ruggeri (O.M.)||3h04m46.0s|
|14. Bittmann (Bugatti)||3h14m20.0s|
Lap 3: Varzi ended the second lap in 1h21m26.4s and stopped at the Cerda depot for tires and fuel which took only 1m18s. He needed 1h25m04.8s for the third tour and Chiron, with a fast
lap of 1h23m38.2s, had reduced Varzi's advantage to two minutes. Nuvolari in third place also stopped after the second lap to have a serious steering problem checked out. He lost not only several
minutes while stationary but also the possibility of competing with Varzi. When Chiron stopped for fuel at Bugatti's main depot in the mountain village of Polizzi, he was told about Nuvolari's
delay in the pits. After three laps, or 324 km, the situation was as follows:
|1. Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||4h07m52.8s|
|2. Chiron (Bugatti)||4h09m45.2s|
|3. Campari (Alfa Romeo)||4h12m18.0s|
|4. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||4h12m30.0s|
|5. Conelli (Bugatti)||4h15m00.0s|
|6. Williams (Bugatti)||4h19m45.2s|
|7. Morandi (O.M.)||4h23m07.0s|
|8. D'Ippolito (Alfa Romeo)||4h28m24.0s|
|9. Borzacchini (Maserati)||4h28m54.0s|
|10. Minoia (O.M.)||4h31m32.0s|
|11. Maserati (Maserati)||4h32m05.0s|
|12. Bittmann (Bugatti)||4h53m01.6s|
|13. Ruggeri (O.M.)||5h00m25.0s|
Lap 4: Minoia in 11th place lost time with a tire defect on his O.M. There were two sections of the Madonie course which earlier spring storms had washed away between Collesano and
Campofelice. These hastily repaired stretches were unusually rough and bumpy, causing Varzi's hard suspended P2 to break its spare wheel mountings. Consequently, he lost the spare and the
mountings which meant he had to drive without a spare wheel for the rest of the race. Worse, when the spare fell off, the surrounding fuel tank in the car's tail showed damage and had developed
a small leak. At the end of lap four, Varzi darted into the pits to refuel and change all tires. He required 1h23m20.2s for his fourth lap, whereas Chiron did it in only 1h21m50.8s and had
made up two minutes, lagging just 23 seconds behind Varzi. Campari had to deal with gearbox problems when his car jumped out of third gear. As a result he was passed by Nuvolari. Williams
pulled into the pits and collapsed from the strain of his first Targa Florio. The strong Divo who had rested since his retirement at the end of lap two, took over Williams' fallen back Bugatti
to do the last lap. When Ruggeri retired his O.M., only 12 cars were left in the race after four laps, or 432 km.
|1. Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||5h31m13.0s|
|2. Chiron (Bugatti)||5h31m36.0s|
|3. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||5h38m36.0s|
|4. Campari (Alfa Romeo)||5h39m14.0s|
|5. Conelli (Bugatti)||5h39m14.2s|
|6. Williams (Bugatti)||5h48m19.4s|
|7. Morandi (O.M.)||5h50m37.6s|
|8. D'Ippolito (Alfa Romeo)||5h57m50.0s|
|9. Maserati (Maserati)||5h59m47.8s|
|10. Minoia (O.M.)||6h00m44.0s|
|11. Borzacchini (Maserati)||6h02m24.0s|
|12. Bittmann (Bugatti)||6h32m56.8s|
Lap 5: On the last lap Chiron was only 23 seconds behind Varzi but had to make a short stop near Polizzi. Chiron would probably have won if his young riding mechanic had not suffered
from car sickness in this, his first race. On left hand corners, the semi-conscious mechanic rolled dangerously against Chiron. On the long run downhill from Polizzi to Collessano, Chiron let
his engine scream and made up time. When the Bugatti's rev counter needle went in the red sector most of the time, the inexperienced mechanic panicked and began to operate the hand oil pump.
When Chiron turned to knock his hand away, the distraction caused him to misjudge a corner. The Bugatti skidded sideways on loose gravel, crashed into the retaining wall, and broke both
left-side alloy wheels. Fortunately, the Bugatti carried two spare wheels. Chiron and his sick mechanic changed the wheels in such a hurry that they left jack and tools by the roadside.
But replacing the wheels had cost them more time than they had made up before.
Varzi's pit stop to change tires and refuel at the end of lap four had cost him half a minute of his lead over Chiron. When he left the pits Chiron was leading on the clock. Varzi
was driving flat out to make up the lost time, he knew that he had no spare wheel and it was very uncertain whether his fuel would last to the finish with his leaking tank. The downhill
section from Polizzi was a triumphant drive for Varzi with the elated Italian crowd rejoicing and swinging small Italian flags. Due to the leak in the tank, his fuel dropped so low that the
Alfa's engine began to splutter and misfire on the down stretch to Campofelice. W.F. Bradley wrote that Varzi's mechanic, Tabacchi, had grabbed a can of gas from one of the many stations the
Alfa Romeo factory had established around the circuit. To avoid losing valuable seconds, Varzi's daring mechanic knelt on his seat and leant out over the back, was pouring fuel from the spare
can into the rear-mounted tank filler while Varzi was racing on. Much fuel was spilled with the car swaying through the bends over the bumpy road and the blast of the slipstream. According to
W.F. Bradley's account, when some fuel spilled on the hot exhaust pipe, the back of the car caught fire. Luckily the flames did not engulf the whole tail and ignite the fuel leaking out of the
tank or the tank filler. The mechanic began beating frantically at the flames with his seat cushion while the ice cold Varzi hunched down in his seat and drove as fast as possible downhill.
Eventually the flames went out as they thundered through Campofelice on to the sea front straight. Varzi went flat out with his geared-down engine screaming the final eight kilometers and the
rev counter needle in the red. His fuel and stressed engine had lasted to the end.
It was almost 4:30 in the afternoon when Varzi roared through the finish line in the splendid time of 6h55m16.8s. What tens of thousands had hoped for became reality.
Victory went to an Italian driver in a red Italian car. The enormous crowd rejoiced waving their little Italian flags. Varzi's admirers literally pulled him out of his car and lifted him on
their shoulders. He had fully earned this hard fought victory. With an average of 78.023 km/h, Varzi had improved Divo's record from last year by more than 20 minutes and broken all existing
records. Varzi had needed 1h24m03.8s for his troubled last lap and Chiron, 1m48.8s back in second place, had required 1h25m29.6s. Conelli had worked himself into third place ahead of Campari's
delayed Alfa Romeo that kept jumping out of third gear. Nuvolari, slowed with a broken front spring mounting, reached the finish almost ten minutes later. He was the final driver who stayed
below last year's winning record time of 7h15m41s set by Divo. Morandi had passed Divo, who struggled in Williams' Bugatti. They were followed by Maserati, d'Ippolito, and Minoia.
Borzacchini, who had encountered many problems with the new Maserati 26M grand prix car, was 11th and Bittmann came last but still within the maximum allowable time of 8 hours and 30 minutes.
Prospero Gianferrari, General Director at Alfa Romeo, embraced the victor as did Traffic Minister Italo Balbo from Rome. Designer Vittorio Jano was extremely happy. For years they had
longed for an Italian victory in the classical Targa Florio. The whole of Italy was now filled with great satisfaction. In the evening bonfires were burning on the hills.
The Targa win was the climax of the Alfa Romeo P2 rebirth and the last major victory for the P2. On his return to Milan, Varzi received a triumphant welcome for his outstanding performance.
|1.||30||Achille Varzi||S.A. Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||P2||2.0||S-8||5||6h55m16.8s|
|2.||22||Louis Chiron||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||5||6h57m05.6s||+ 1m48.8s|
|3.||46||Caberto Conelli||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||5||7h03m13.0s||+ 7m56.2s|
|4.||44||Giuseppe Campari||S.A. Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||6C 1750 GS||1.8||S-6||5||7h03m54.0s||+ 8m37.2s|
|5.||40||Tazio Nuvolari||S.A. Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||6C 1750 GS||1.8||S-6||5||7h13m01.8s||+ 17m45.0s|
|6.||4||Giuseppe Morandi||Officine Meccaniche SA||O.M.||665||2.2||S-6||5||7h18m31.6s||+ 23m14.8s|
|7.||42||"Williams"/A. Divo||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||5||7h19m51.2s||+ 24m34.4s|
|8.||20||Ernesto Maserati||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati||26B||2.1||S-8||5||7h29m12.8s||+ 33m56.0s|
|9.||18||Guido d'Ippolito||Guido d'Ippolito||Alfa Romeo||6C 1500||1.5||S-6||5||7h29m18.0s||+ 34m01.2s|
|10.||12||Ferdinando Minoia||Officine Meccaniche SA||O.M.||665 S||2.2||S-6||5||7h32m13.8s||+ 36m57.0s|
|11.||2||Baconin Borzacchini||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||5||7h35m21.0s||+ 40m04.2s|
|12.||34||Otakar Bittmann||O. Bittmann||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||5||8h17m16.0s||+ 1h21m59.2s|
|DNF||24||Amedeo Ruggeri||A. Ruggeri||O.M.||665 S||2.2||S-6||3||mechanical|
|DNF||6||Albert Divo||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||2||axle|
|DNF||14||Luigi Arcangeli||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||1||crash|
|DNF||26||Renato Balestrero||R. Balestrero||O.M.||665 S||2.2||S-6||0|
|DNF||10||Aymo Maggi||S.A. Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||6C 1750 GS||1.8||S-8||0|
Fastest lap: Achille Varzi (Bugatti) in 1h21m21.6s = 79.6 km/h (49.5 mph) |
Winner's medium speed: 78.0 km/h (48.5 mph)
Weather: dry, sunny and warm.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
LA STAMPA, Milano
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck