Australia is indeed a lucky country. For the second consecutive year, one of the oldest motorsport events in the world, Targa Florio, has left Sicily in Italy, and touched down in Victoria.
There is no other event like it in Australia, and it has been designed to duplicate exactly how the 102-year old event is run in Italy. It was an easy decision for the Palermo Car Club to have a sister event, with Victoria’s strong motorsport history, its even stronger Italian community, and beautiful roads proving to be a no brainer.
The Targa Florio Australian Tribute includes 50 cars, covering over 1100 kilometres in five days. There are three categories for owners to enter their car: Classic, Ferrari, and Supercar, and there were even a few who transported their cars from Italy for the event. That's dedication.
Targa Florio is not about speed like other Targa events, but focuses on precision. Between each course, cars can travel up to 100km through some of Victoria’s picturesque towns, and arrive at places like a car park. From there, it is similar to a motorkhana, which involves road cones, but not tackling the course the fastest way possible.
With a tour book in hand and a stopwatch for the passenger, the driver has to navigate through a course with a number of checkpoints. Each checkpoint needs to be reached within a certain time, but the car cannot come to a complete stop. It requires a high amount of concentration at relatively slow speeds.
CarAdvice experienced the Targa Florio Australian Tribute with Alfa Romeo this year, at the wheel of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Alfa Romeo’s connection with Targa Florio is a special one. The Quadrifoglio symbol originated there in 1923, when racer, Ugo Sivocci wasn’t having any luck winning any races, so he decided to paint a four-leaf clover on the bonnet of his car. He went on to win his next race, and from that point on, a four leaf clover on a white diamond was apart of every racing Alfa Romeo, as it was perceived to bring good luck.
The white diamond, with its four points, represented the four factory Alfa Romeo drivers of the day, including Sivocci, and a young bloke who would go on to much greater fame, Enzo Ferrari.
Sadly, Sivocci was killed in 1924 while racing an Alfa Romeo that didn’t feature the four-leaf clover. In tribute, the Alfa Romeo changed the four-pointed diamond background to a triangle to represent the three remaining team drivers. And it's a symbol that remains to this day, not only on competition cars but on more of the exclusive road cars, bearing the name, Quadrifoglio.
We drove the Giulia Quadrifoglio from Cape Schanck to Phillip Island with two regulatory courses in between. While it wasn’t driven in anger, it proved to be a comfortable highway cruiser, and there were times you would forget it was a sports sedan. But when the time came to overtake, its 2.9-litre V6 engine kicked your head into the headrest, with its 375kW of power and 600Nm of torque on hand.
Although there were quite a few Alfas once we arrived at Phillip Island, our red car received quite a bit of attention. A gentleman approached the car and asked if he could be a passenger for a lap around the track, as he had just bought one and wanted to see how it handled. And he wasn’t the only one who wanted a hot lap!
However, driving on the track didn’t mean driving fast. The first checkpoint was at the beginning of the lap, and the next was near the finish line. To arrive at the last checkpoint, we had to drive at an average speed of 65km/h, and yes, cruise control was used.
It was time to rest the Quadrifoglio in the pits, as its grandfather was calling; a red 1970 Alfa Romeo 105 Giulia Sprint GT 1300 Junior. This beauty had been sitting for 15 years before it was dusted off for this event, and appeared to be all original (apart from the cassette player), and maybe a few rust repairs thrown in, as they were prone to rust quite a lot back in the day.
The GT Junior was produced between 1965 and 1977 and had two engine configurations, a 1300cc, and a 1600cc. The 1300 we were driving produces 77kW of power and 137Nm, but over the last 48 years, you would imagine a few kilowatts and torques has escaped since then.
Classic cars have their own idiosyncrasies, and it couldn’t be any more true of this Alfa. The driver told me to slam the hell out of the door to close it, as it sometimes opens while cornering, and that third gear is short, so it’s best to get into fourth gear as soon as I can. The seatbelt buckle was like something you would use for bungee jumping, and I struggled with it until the driver buckled me in, out of frustration watching me.
The wooden steering wheel was well worn where your right thumb would sit, and the gear stick was perfectly placed close to the wheel for those quick shifts. The five-speed manual transmission is easy to use, and as its owner said, third gear is short as it gets to 3000rpm very quickly.
The chassis and body are integrated, so it feels quite planted when bombing into corners. Coming to a stop is helped by all-round disc brakes, quite a rarity for that era. The engine had that iconic Italian rattle to it, as it wound up to 70mph, and the diff whined. Sure, it wasn’t exactly powerful, but you don’t need power to have fun.
Could the 105 be one of the most beautiful and simplistic designs Alfa Romeo has ever produced? It’s got some stiff competition within its own stable, but it’s certainly a stunner that oozes that rich Italian passion and heritage.
2018 Targa Florio Australian Tribute results
1st: Angelo Pizzuto and Himara Bottini (ITA) - MG A - 19612nd: Brent Morrison (AUS) and Christopher Kerr (NZL) - Porsche 356 A - 19583rd: Tony Donnellan and Tim Donnellan (AUS) - Alfa Romeo Spider - 1976
1st: Robert Marsh and Sam Marsh (AUS) - Ferrari 360 Spider 2nd: Justin Lui and Holly Lau on from HONG KONG - Ferrari F430 F1 3rd: Michael Piccolo and Gaby Cilia (AUS) - Ferrari 458 - 2011
1st: Giordano Mozzi and Stefania Biacca (ITA) - Alfa Romeo 4C - 20182nd: Peter Voigt and Lynda Field (AUS) - Porsche 911 GT33rd: Robert Summons and Niko French (AUS) - Audi R8 - 2009