Sandro Binelli: “It’s exciting to see the people who made the Targa Florio the legend it is today”

It’s just around the corner! The Eco Targa Florio 2012 begins on Wednesday, October 10, 2012. We asked Sandro Binelli, President of MAC Group, the company in charge of organizing the event, how he’s feeling just hours before the starter’s gun goes off.

The Targa Florio is one of the most famous races in the world. What prompted you to revive the event?

We were asked by the Fondazione Targa Florio Onlus to put on an event worthy of the prestige and charisma of this historic race. It’s the oldest race in the world and it has contributed much to the development of racing cars over the years: we were very, very proud to accept the challenge.

The cars that took part in the race in the past literally made history, and we are extremely proud to have brought a good number of the same models back to the famous Circuito delle Madonie for the Targa Florio Classic. From a businessman’s point of view, I believe the event has the potential to become a global fixture, just like the Mille Miglia – able to attract all the main automotive car manufacturers and brands. Already this year we are pleased to be welcoming brands such as Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar and Lancia.

An enormous effort must have gone in to preparing for the event. How do you feel – just a few hours before the event starts?

Excited and proud would be the right words to describe how I feel right now. We accepted this huge challenge last year, when we prepared a tester event in just a few months. We have now doubled the number of entrants, and the 200 registrations include many very valuable cars. And of course it is exciting for an enthusiast like me to see models such as the (1968) Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/2s or the (1955) Porsche 550-1500 RS, as well as some of the people who made the Targa Florio the legend it is today: I’m talking about Vic Elford, Nanni Galli, Arturo Merzario, Nino Vaccarella and Gijs van Lennep, great drivers who will be with us during the event.

How have preparations gone? What have the best moments been?

As I was saying, I myself am a great lover of the classic car world. Keeping a watchful eye on the selection process, I’ve become more and more excited about the great quality of the cars that collectors have applied to race with. This prompted me to create a special event within in the main event: a show before the start of the race itself. So before the cars get down to the serious business of racing, there will be a spectacular parade of classic models, including the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/2 (1968), the Ferrari 212 Export (1951), the 250 GT (1955) and the ex-works Austin Healey 3000 (1965). More than 20 cars in total.

Whet our appetites a little more. What other gems will be starting the race?

Collectors were quick to appreciate and support the event and we now have 200 entrants. Most of the classic cars in the race are incredibly valuable, but if I were to highlight just a few I would go back to the models with the strongest links to the Targa Florio: meaning those that once competed in the regularity race. The Maserati A6GCS (1954), the Jaguar C-Type (1952), in which Juan Manuel Fangio raced, and the Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS (1957).

How do you gauge the route? Do you have to be fast or accurate – what are the right tactics from your point of view?

The Circuito delle Madonie is extremely challenging: it’s on public roads, with an incredible number of uphill and downhill bends. Owing to the reliability formula, the most important thing is for the drivers to be extremely accurate in all trials, be they time trial, time check or checkpoint stages. And of course, to have an excellent co-driver.

The Targa Florio takes place in a beautiful landscape – do you have a favourite section?

For me the Targa Florio is all about the Circuito delle Madonie and its bends. I think that’s the most incredible part of the race. 2012 actually marks an important anniversary in the Targa’s history. Precisely one hundred years ago, Vincenzo Florio tried a new formula, choosing to run the race as a Giro di Sicilia (Lap of Sicily), with the start and finish in Palermo, and circling the perimeter of the island in a single leg. This gives us an opportunity to admire the beautiful and diverse scenery that only Sicily can offer on a three-day drive and a 900 km route. We will go around the island, encountering cities of art such as Caltagirone, famous for its production of ceramics; we will pass through the splendid alleyways of Ortigia to take in the thousand-year history of the town and its countless monuments. Then of course Catania and Taormina on a course that leaves a coastline dominated by black lava masses and the Cyclops Stacks to climb upwards to the slopes of Mount Etna. Finally on to Cefalù and the hinterland once again to rejoin the Madonie Circuit.

There are several “timed stages” in the race. What does this mean for the drivers?

They give drivers and co-drivers an opportunity to take part in a challenging race while still enjoying and taking in Sicily, its history and its beauty.

Finally, tell us about the media response. How great is interest in the race in Sicily?

The race’s great history makes our job extremely easy. Interest in Eco Targa Florio is constantly growing in all media: locally of course, but also nationally and internationally, as reflected in the number of representatives of major international automotive magazines at the event.

Uniques 2011
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