Le Mans winner and Targa Florio hero Nino Vaccarella dies aged 88

Nino Vaccarella, a hero of the Targa Florio road race in his native Sicily, has died at the age of 88.

Vaccarella won the Targa three times, first with Ferrari in 1965 and then driving for Alfa Romeo in 1971 and '75, during a racing career that included wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, in addition to four world championship Formula 1 starts.

A driver dubbed the Flying Headmaster courtesy of his role at the private school run by his family was revered on Sicily: the public roads that made up the 45-mile Circuito Piccolo delle Madione were daubed with his name ahead of the event each year.

Enzo Ferrari dubbed him a "temperamental driver" in his early-1980s book Piloti, che gente… about all the drivers who had raced his cars.

"Calm and staid on the outside, you could feel that within him burned the fire and passion of his native land," he wrote.

"The route of the Madonie highlighted his skills as a road racer and it took something special for him not to win or at least be among the leaders."

Vaccarella was brought into the Ferrari works set-up after impressive performances aboard the Italian manufacturer's machinery run by the Scuderia Serenissima privateer team.

He finished second on debut with the factory in the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours in a Ferrari 1-2, sharing 250P with Willy Mairesse and Lorenzo Bandini, and finished in the same position aboard a 275P co-driven with Lodovico Scarfiotti 12 months later.

That was a prelude to victories at the 1964 Nurburging 1000Km in May and then Le Mans, sharing a 275 with Jean Guichet, the following month. A first Targa win followed in 1965 at the wheel of 275 co-driven by Bandini.

Vaccarella won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1964, but was most famous for his three Targa Florio victories

Vaccarella won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1964, but was most famous for his three Targa Florio victories

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Vaccarella finally won at Sebring in 1970, his last season with Ferrari. Mario Andretti sealed the victory after taking over the controls of the 512S in which Vaccarella and Ignazio Giunti had completed the majority of the race for the final 55 minutes.

PLUS: The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked 

Victory number two at the Targa came after Vaccarella joined Alfa Romeo for its 1971 World Championship for Makes campaign.

He notched up a win on home turf driving a T33/3 prototype with Toine Hezemans, also finishing third at Sebring and second in the Zeltweg 1000Km.

His final win in the Sicilian classic came in 1975, after the event had lost its world championship status, sharing an Alfa T33/TT/12 with Arturo Merzario.

Vaccarella opted to hang up his helmet after the 1975 Targa to concentrate on his teaching role.

His four world championship F1 starts in 1961, 1962 and 1965 each came at the wheel of different makes of car. He raced a De Tomaso, a Porsche and a Lotus for Scuderia Serenissima in the first two of those years before a solitary outing with the Ferrari factory at the 1965 Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

His best F1 result came in the non-championship Coppa Italia at Vallelunga in 1962, a third place in a Serenissima-entered Cooper-Maserati.

Born in Palermo, Vaccarella started racing in his father's Fiat Abarth 1100 in 1956.

He rose to prominence with a victory at the 1959 Pergusa Grand Prix at the Enna-Pergusa circuit in Sicily after which he came under the patronage of Serenissima boss Count Giovanni Volpi.

shares
comments

Related video

Why Le Mans proves good vision is vital to racing success
Previous article

Why Le Mans proves good vision is vital to racing success

Next article

Alpine to run two-car LMDh Hypercar entry in WEC from 2024

Alpine to run two-car LMDh Hypercar entry in WEC from 2024
Porsche’s hopeful Le Mans future meets its illustrious past Plus

Porsche’s hopeful Le Mans future meets its illustrious past

Rising sportscar star Adam Smalley had to pinch himself when offered the chance to drive the car that won the world’s most famous enduro in 1987

Historics
Sep 6, 2022
How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game Plus

How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game

The 956 set the bar at the dawn of Group C 40 years ago, and that mark only rose higher through the 1980s, both in the world championship and in the US. It and its successor, the longer-wheelbase 962, were voted as Autosport's greatest sportscar in 2020 - here's why

WEC
Aug 25, 2022
Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes Plus

Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes

OPINION: While the focus has been on the exciting prospect of Ferrari vs Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours next year, BMW’s factory return to endurance racing should not be ignored. It won't be at the French classic next year as it focuses efforts on the IMSA SportsCar Championship, but could be a dark horse in 2024 when it returns to La Sarthe with the crack WRT squad

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2022
How Formula E's double-duty drivers influenced their Le Mans teams' fortunes Plus

How Formula E's double-duty drivers influenced their Le Mans teams' fortunes

Eight Formula E drivers made the 7,000-mile sprint from the streets of Jakarta to the fabled Circuit de la Sarthe and every one had a story to share at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Despite a range of triumphs and disappointments, each driver doubling up on the day job played a key role in their teams' fortunes

Le Mans
Jun 14, 2022
Le Mans 2022: The team by team guide Plus

Le Mans 2022: The team by team guide

The 90th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours is here. Here's Autosport's run down of the full field and who to look out for in each class

Le Mans
Jun 11, 2022
The great Le Mans garagistes that challenged factory might Plus

The great Le Mans garagistes that challenged factory might

Glickenhaus is the latest in a line of small-time constructors to take on the big names. Here are some of the finest in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans
Jun 9, 2022
When the moribund GTE Pro class stole the show at Le Mans Plus

When the moribund GTE Pro class stole the show at Le Mans

The GTE class faces a time of transition, with Ferrari and Porsche both committing resources to Hypercar programmes for next year's World Endurance Championship and GT3 cars confirmed to take over from 2024. But at its pomp in the recent past, the GTE Pro class pitched manufacturers and top drivers into the tightest of duels

Le Mans
Jun 9, 2022
How an Italian junior formula giant is readying for its Le Mans future Plus

How an Italian junior formula giant is readying for its Le Mans future

Prema remains a colossus in single-seaters, but the serial Formula 2 and Formula 3 title-winning squad has joined forces with top GT squad Iron Lynx for an attack on sportscars in the World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series. Ahead of its debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours, its sights are firmly fixed on LMP2 glory – and a future in Hypercars next year...

Le Mans
Jun 8, 2022