Alfa Romeo Tipo 33

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2015 Red Bull Daniel Ricciardo drives the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Sicily
DANIEL Ricciardo has turned back the clock, heading to Sicily to have a drive of a classic Alfa Romeo on the roads made famous by the Targa Florio sports car race. Ricciardo slipped behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo T33, the same car used by his Red Bull mentor Dr. Helmut Marko in 1972 to set a lap record that would stand for all time at a tick under 34 minutes. That’s right. 34 minutes for a single 72-kilometre lap. Nurburgring Nordschleife, eat your heart out. The Targa Florio, last raced in 1977, was the lone survivor of motorsport’s heritage of racing along open roads. It stayed on the World Sportscar Championship calendar long after safety — and sanity — began its progressive march through world motorsport. The 72-kilometre Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie snaked its way through Sicily’s north. Drivers blasted south from the startline in Cerda, up through the hills towards Collesano where the circuit turned north. Through more rolling hills, the circuit raced through Caltavuturo, before reaching the Mediterranean at Campofelice. There began the run back to Cerda, headlined a six-kilometre straight. Along the way, drivers sprinted down narrow lanes at speeds reaching 300 km/h, passing trees, houses, cliff faces and sheer drops. Plus the thousands upon thousands of cheering spectators that lined the route. And all without so much as a skerrick of concrete wall, armco barrier, or gravel trap to be seen. “The first few laps were a shock,” Marko said to Red Bulletin. “During practice, (teammate) Toine Hezemans collided with a donkey, rider and all. He was catapulted over the rear spoiler. Nino Vaccarella and his car disappeared under a truck. “Locals nailed their doors and windows shut to be on the safe side. One car got lost up in the mountains. It took half a day just to find it again. There were no crash barriers, just outsized bales of hay here and there.” Ricciardo takes step back in time Ricciardo punts the Alfa into one of the opening corners on the course Marko was Alfa’s last iron in the fire on the 1972 event. The demanding race whittled down to a straight fight for victory between Marko and the remaining Ferrari, the latter leading by around three minutes. Getting behind the wheel for his final stint in second place, Marko was charged with the task of running down the leading Ferrari. He had made no bones about his hatred of the circuit and of the event. But, said Marko, “as a racing driver, you forget all that when you have a sniff of victory.” Driving like a man possessed, Marko tore through the mountains, taking massive chunks out of the Ferrari’s lead and resetting the lap record. His remarkable charge would come up just 16 seconds short, after just 11 laps but almost 800 kilometres of racing. The race was finally forced off the championship calendar one year later, before disappearing altogether after 1977. Perhaps the most-photographed corner of the circuit. Little has changed. Perhaps the most-photographed corner of the circuit. Little has changed. Apart from a few new coats of paint on the terraces, modern street signs and the occasionally upgraded road, little has changed along the old event’s route. Perhaps this is why the photos of Ricciardo aboard the Alfa look like they could be from the period — apart from his open-face helmet and goggles. “It does what you expect it to: it’s a proper racing car!” Ricciardo says of the red beast, whose V8 engine pumps over 400 horsepower through a chassis weighing under 700 kilograms. “I’ve only ever used (an H-pattern) gear shift in Formula Ford,” he adds, “and I wasn’t all that good at it. It’s all handiwork. It’s hard, but fun.” Completing the circle of time is Ricciardo’s Sicilian heritage. His grandparents emigrated from Ficarra — about an hour east of the Targa course — to Australia when Ricciardo’s father Joe was still a child. Though a full lap of the circuit was impossible, Ricciardo was able to get a taste for what it was like to be a racer of the sixties and seventies. “Maybe now I have a better understanding of what Helmut means when he talks about the past, even if I’ll never completely understand it,” he said. “But I know one thing. Now I want a historic racing car.” source

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