The Targa Florio (1906-1977)
Long before the 24 hour Le Mans or the Mille Miglia had been established, the Targa Florio became one of the largest races in Europe. It was also one of the oldest endurance challenge events, held around a 72 kilometre circuit, the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie.
Founded in 1906, by Italian race driver Vincenzi Florio, the first Targa Florio consisted of three perilous laps through high mountainous tracks that overlooked the city of Sicily, close to Palermo. The route took place at such a height, severe and difficult changes in climate frequently occured.
It became an infamous arena where racing greats of the world would meet to challenge Italian drivers. Famous Italian champions such as Alfieri Maserati and Tazio Nuvolari would face fierce international competition.
A Porsche 911 prototype won the race in 1973, after which it became a national sports car event until 1977 when a fatal car crash stopped the challenge for good. Porsche named their classic hardtop convertible version of the 911 the Targa after their victory.
The Peking-Paris Race (1907-present)
The Peking to Paris motor race is truly one of the most formidable and unique endurance tests in the world of motorsport. Participants drive over 10000 miles, through nine countries between Peking (now Beijing) and Paris. With timed sections and a huge distance to cover, it is arguably the hardest and longest driving challenge for classic cars.
The idea for the most famous vintage car race came about in 1907 from Le Matin, the Paris newspaper. “What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?” A challenge was published in the paper and the event was born.
The adventurous route spans stunning roads and harsh deserts, and was unprecedented for a time when the efficiency of automobiles was doubted over horse drawn carriages.
A monument to the winner of the first race, a 1906 Itala 35/45 was erected in 2015. A commemoration of the team’s stopover in Kirov, Russia, in 1907.
Le Mans 24 Hours (1923-present)
The oldest and most famous endurance race that’s still held every two years. The prestigious Le Mans sees over 700 classic cars race around the Circuit de la Sarthe, over an intense 24 hour endurance challenge.
The event has been the seat for fierce competition and bitter rivalries over the years and has seen some of the most recognised racers compete throughout the ages. Participants have included the Ferrari 250 GTO, the Porsche 917 and the Ford Mark IV.
The popularity of the 24 hour format has inspired similar events around the world, from the Nürburgring to Bathurst.
The Mille Miglia (1927-1957)
Started in 1927 by Italian Counts Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti, the Mille Miglia course covered roughly 1000 miles of the Italian countryside. It is still regarded as one of the legendary road races of all time.
The event started and finished in Brescia and showcased some of the finest Gran Turismo brands of Italy, including Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Fiat.
In 1957, after two fatal crashes the race was eventually banned.
Monaco Grand Prix (1929-present)
Run since 1929, the most popular event in the Formula 1 calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix is a tournament steeped in prestige and glamour.
Annually held on the Circuit de Monaco, the event sees cars race around a demanding tight, twisting and narrow course, requiring the manoeuvrability of the vehicles to be of paramount importance. The early agile Bugattis dominated the event before the 1930s, before succumbing to the stronger Alfa Romeo 8C Monza.
The Monaco Grand Prix witnessed an incredible five consecutive wins and six total victories from Ayrton Senna, regarded by many as the greatest racing driver of all time.
Do you have a favourite all time classic car race? Is it one of the ones we’ve listed?
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By D.A.S. (Germany) (D.A.S. (Germany)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons