The Targa Florio had first been held in 1906, when the winner averaged 29mph. By the 1970s, development had been such that this figure was up to 80mph.
With the race being run on the narrow, twisty roads of mountainous Sicily, where buildings, people, parked cars, trees and cliff edges were never more than inches away, it was, in the words of lap record holder Helmut Marko, “totally insane”. Therefore, 1973 was to be the last FIA World Sportscar Championship running.
With the huge crowd (supposedly up to 700,000) stirred by a lap of honour by 27 historic Alfa Romeos, Rolf Stommelen took the lead in Alfa’s sole flat-12 T33.
The real action began on lap three of 11, as Jacky Ickx’s equivalent Ferrari 312 was taken out by a rock; the other by a gearbox broken by Arturo Merzario’s earlier recklessness; and the T33 (now with Andrea de Adamich) by a milestone during a hasty lapping.
So the lead fell to the Porsche 911 RSR of Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Müller, who pulled away from the Lancia Stratos of rallyists Sandro Munari and Jean-Claude Andruet, who kept pitting to fix their seat, robbing us of an interesting battle. We reported no major incidents, but actually a driver and a fan had died. The Targa Florio had been glorious, but it couldn’t go on.