Porsche has enjoyed dominant success on many tracks around the world, but few top the Targa Florio for the sheer glamor and mystique of the place. Stuttgart victories were plentiful during the years the event was held, with wins by the 550, RSK, RS60, 904, 906, 907, 910, 911 RSR, and two 908s, driven by the likes of Mitter, Elford, Redman, Stommelen, Bonnier, Hermann, and Graham Hill.
In Sicily for the rollout of the 2009 Boxster, we had been given the usual route instructions: a fair length day trip on the roads of the northern part of the island, with a lunch break along the way to enjoy good food and perhaps some time with the engineers, then back to the hotel for dinner and the flight home the next morning. But the legendary roads of the Targa lay in the opposite direction, to the south, and my colleague and I opted to strike out in that direction and try to experience something of the old 148 km road course, with its 6000 bends and corners, up through the mountains.
It proved to be one of the most eventful days of my life. Pushing south to find an entrance to the route, thoughts of lunch were abandoned. Instead we went to Cerda—a historic village through which the race had been run-- and spent some time in a private museum of Targa artifacts with the owner and a number of his local friends, enthusiasts of the first order who were dedicated to preventing the removal of the few remaining remnants of the old course, the pits and grandstand. Italian though our hosts were, there was a lot of enthusiasm among them for Porsche, and the little museum prominently featured the driving suit and helmet of Count Pucci, who won with the 904.
Pushing on, we learned a lot about the car and ourselves on those historic mountain roads, but we felt a little conspicuous in our Boxster S. It had been painted as a tribute to the 908 that Siffert and Redman had driven to victory in 1970, sporting a similar blue paint job with a huge orange arrow running from the rear to the front of the car and a vintage-looking white bullseye and racing number on its flanks. A lot of fun photographically, it nevertheless seemed a bit like police bait, risky especially in a country whether neither of us spoke the language and weren’t exactly where we were supposed to be.
Sure enough, as we moved toward the last stages of the loop that would bring us back to the old pits, an oncoming carabinieri vehicle hit his blue lights, and we pulled over. It turned out to be friendly enough; he seemed to want to tell us, in Italian of course, of some reason we shouldn’t proceed further, and then left us to puzzle out whether we would turn back as recommended (demanded?) and retrace our route, or take our chances with what whatever it was that had happened. Endowed with more curiosity than caution, we forged on and eventually came to the place where the mountainous road ahead had fallen into the valley below, as might we if we pushed our luck any further.
No choice then but to turn back and take the long way home by retracing our route, running the Targa course backwards, until we could get to the large roads eventually leading back to our hotel and finally (we barely made it in time) some food. It was a day like no other. I still have a small piece of Sicilian asphalt from the broken road in a display case, the one that holds the 908 models trimmed in blue and orange.