THE FIVER... They raced over thousands of kilometres on public roads without crash barriers, run-off areas, crowd control, or race marshalls. These legendary road races make Formula One look like a Sunday drive...
La Carrera Panamericana …. Mexico
1950-54. Distance 3 200km
The concept was simple – a flat-out, border-to-border race along the Mexican section of the new Pan-American super-highway. The reality was less simple. It was more of a waypoint-to-waypoint sprint with the highway contributing to part of the route rather than being the actual route. The race was a brutal affair – perilous to both drivers and spectators – and even today the route presents a challenge.
1927-54. Distance 1 600km
This legendary 1 000-mile lap of Italy through its cities, towns and villages was the creation of two young aristocrats, Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti who enjoyed racing the train from their home town of Brescia to Milan. In its heyday from 1947 to 1957, the race would attract the world’s top drivers driving the very latest sports prototype race cars capable of speeds touching 260km/h. The fastest cars would average 170km/h over the distance.
Targa Florio …. Sicily
1906-77 Distance 934km
The granddaddy of all road races was 13 laps of a closed-off Sicilian street course called the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie. Amazingly though, by 1955 the race was part of the official World Sportscar championships and incredibly practice was held while the road was still open to the public. Imagine blasting around a mountainous course with over 7200 corners and very often, treacherous weather… that was the Targa.
Tour de France Automobile …. France
1889-1986 Distance 934km
Not an out-and-out timed road race like the others, the Tour was a multi-discipline event that combined timed road sections, hill climbs and circuit racing. More a test of endurance than speed in the early days, the race had a patchy one-off history until the organisers invited the Le Mans-type sports prototypes to compete in 1969. In the late 70s the oil crises hit the race quite hard and it’s 50th running in 1986 would prove to be a final hurrah.
Targa Tasmania …. Tasmania
1992- present Distance: 2 150km
Run in the spirit of these great races of yore, this event on Australia’s island state builds on the island’s legacy F1 and motorcycle race history. With the aim of capturing the rugged spirit of the Targa Florio and the national fervor of the Mille Miglia, the event was initially open to classic sportscar drivers. While the new powerful sports prototypes are still not permitted, sporstcars are and in recent years it’s been won by Lamborghini Gallardos and Nissan GT-Rs.