Here is our man Dan Gurney, waiting for practice with the Shelby Cobra at the Targa Florio which took place on April 26, 1964. Gurney was partnered with Jerry Grant and together they finished eighth overall and first in GT over 3 liters.
The Shelby American effort involved three other Cobras beyond the Gurney/Grant car. These were driven by Phil Hill/Bob Bondurant, local experts Vito Coco/Vincenzo Arena and Masten Gregory/Innes Ireland. In addition, the young American Tommy Hitchcock entered his Cobra for himself and Prince Zourab Tchkotoua. The rough Targa circuit of 72 km in length to be run over 10 laps defeated these four Cobras – none would reach the finish, although the Hill/Bondurant Cobra did not retire until the final lap.
The main challenge to the Cobras in the GT categories would be a pack of six Ferrari 250GTOs, although the overall win would unquestionably come from among the strong Porsche entries. János Wimpffen in Time and Two Seats, his monumental book about world championship sports car racing, described the GT challenge of this Targa Florio as, “The Cobras would have to overcome the rugged circuit which was not entirely to their liking while the Ferraris would have to overcome the Cobras.”
The start and finish were held as usual in Cerda with cars flagged off at 30 second intervals. Here at about 8:23 in the morning Phil Hill is about to start off in his Cobra as Gurney waits for his turn next. In the Targa one really may not know who is leading until the entire field finishes its first lap and the timekeepers post the results. Local knowledge is vital as is a rally special stage type approach to driving. The scenery was very unrelenting, so there was always a delicate balance between aggression and avoiding a disaster.
The power and torque of the Cobras gave them tremendous acceleration, but the rough road would inevitably exact a significant amount of suspension damage and breakage. The two new Ferrari 250GTOs with 1964 bodywork, although privately entered, were but thinly disguised factory cars with Jean Guichet/Carlo Facetti in one and Luigi Taramazzo/Corrado Ferlaino in the other. Certainly Jean Guichet put up a strong challenge for the first half of the race before his gearbox broke, but the other GTO64 lasted the distance, finishing fifth, with two older GTOs coming in right behind the Gurney/Grant Cobra, seen here out on the circuit.
Both Bondurant and Grant were new to the Piccolo Madonie road which made it a double challenge for them, although the former had spent quite a bit of time practicing with the assistance of one of his Sicilian teammates. In addition, the Cobras were not helped by slow pit work which put them at a further disadvantage.
At the finish the surprise winner was a Porsche 904GTS, leading also the two liter GT class, driven by Antonio Pucci/Colin Davis with another 904 in second place, followed by a pair of Alfa Romeo TZs ahead of the first Ferrari.
Photos by Robert Daley ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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