Nino Vaccarella, nicknamed “The Flying Principal”, is one of the Targa Florio’s mythical figures: he is the local hero, the darling of the crowd, and they scrawl his name on the walls along the route. Vaccarella could boast three wins and two third places under his belt, and a couple of retirements deprived him of two other certain victories.
A Sicilian from the city of Palermo, Vaccarella graduated in law, but after his father’s death, he decided to dedicate his life to running the family’s school, as Principle, along with his sister. Then along came racing, a passion that had devoured him since boyhood, never flourishing fully due to his choice of career. A shame, as he clearly has the potential to establish himself as a champion, and triumph in a lot more than the 19 international races that he actually won. Enzo Ferrari considered him an ideal driver for the sports-protoypes, and was proved right – with Jean Guichet, Vaccarella won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1964 behind the wheel of the 275 P, helping the Maranello Scuderia to win the World Sports Car Championship. Such was his dedication to his school, however, that Vaccarella skipped the celebrations following his victory at Le Mans, choosing instead to go to work on the Monday morning after the race. In the magical year of 1964, Vaccarella also came second at Sebring (as he did in ’63), and took first place in the 1000 km of the Nürburgring and in the Coppa Intereuropa at Monza. Then in 1965, he sped to victory with a Ferrari on home turf in the Targa Florio, 72 km over difficult and gruelling roads through the Madonie mountains. In this edition of the race, he drove alongside Lorenzo Bandini, taking an all-Italian victory ahead of a host of Porsche and Ford works cars present. They set a new record for the circuit, completing the ten laps (a distance of 720 km in total) in 7 hours 1 minute and 12 seconds, in front of around 250,000 spectators
Vaccarella was 32, while Bandini was just 30. Together, they represented the youth of Italy, driving fast and making their mark in the international arena. It became apparent that Ferrari had a soft spot for young Italians, treating them like sons, taking them on in dribs and drabs so as not to place them in direct competition with one another. The team tried to launch their careers without burning them out or losing them, so they gave them each a turn, one by one. In 1965, Ferrari earmarked the F1 Italian Grand Prix for Vaccarella, where he raced in a 158 F1, remaining in sixth place until he was forced to withdraw due to engine failure. Regardless of this, 1964 and 1965 were enchanted years for the Sicilian driver. His companion Bandini, fresh from taking 4th place in the F1 World Championship, also won at Le Mans, as well as twice taking second place in the Targa Florio. From this result, it seems that his heart was truly set on winning the Sicilian marathon. With Vaccarella, he finally succeeded. Their car for the Targa Florio was one the models from the all-conquering P series, developed over four years from 1964 onwards; the 275 P2 was the first evolution of this range and came out in 1965 alongside the 330 P2, which featured a larger engine.