Victoria wins rights to host Targa Florio Australian Tribute road race

Some of the world's most expensive and desirable classic cars will soon be charging around the Great Ocean Road, Gippsland and the Yarra Valley.

But rather than a breakaway group of hoons, the planned race involving up to 200 cars and their (wealthy) enthusiast owners will be an Australian adaptation of one of Italy's most famous road races – minus the road racing bit.

The Targa Florio – known as the world's oldest sports car race – will be transplanted into Australia as the Targa Florio Australian Tribute.

Endurance engines

Rather than a race of speed, the event will be a test of endurance and a "regularity race", whereby drivers are challenged to hit specific speed targets; using highly accurate measuring equipment drivers will be challenged to cover, say, 500 metres at 35km/h and the driver closest to the target wins.

Planned from November 29 – December 3 on some of the best driving roads around Melbourne, the event is hoped to attract cars from manufacturers as diverse as BMW, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and more.

It has been sanctioned by Australia's peak motorsport body, the Confederation of Australian Motorsport, and the sport's global governing body, the FIA.

All cars must have been produced between 1906 – the first year the Italian Targa Florio took place – and 1976.

However, it's the specific Ferrari class, for Ferraris produced after 1977, that will attract plenty of interest – provided there are enough of them.

Will it work?

Some industry insiders are sceptical about the event's potential to attract the level of vehicles that make an event such as this so appealing.


Three who 51698009 spoke to suggested the event had been organised too late, making it difficult for wealthy – and, often, busy owners – to arrange for their vehicles to be on the start line.

However, one of three directors behind the iSteem Group that owns the rights to the event, John Caniglia, says interest has already exceeded expectations, both here and around the world.

"Targa Florio is an iconic event of the classic car global circuit," he says. "We've had interest from the UK, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Hong Kong, Singapore and across the country."

Caniglia says planning for the event started last August and organisers started recruiting cars and drivers at the Targa Florio in Italy in April.

In and out

However, while the Italian Targa Florio enjoys the support of manufacturers, the Australian event currently has none.

And one of the main target brands, Ferrari, has ruled itself out for 2017.

"We were in discussions with them," says Ferrari Australia president and CEO Herbert Appleroth, wishing the event well and adding he would be keeping an eye on how it developed. "We have decided to decline at this stage to be officially involved as has our Melbourne dealer."

Instead, it's Victorian taxpayers stumping up a chunk of the bill.

"The Victorian government is providing significant support for 2017," says Caniglia, refusing to go into details.

Speed trackers

No doubt one thing the Victorian government will be taking a keen interest in is ensuring drivers don't break the strictly enforced speed limits – something that could catch out drivers from Europe, where speeding laws are often much more leniently enforced.

Caniglia says the speed of all cars will be monitored in real time using GPS tracking, allowing organisers to meter their own punishments for drivers creeping over the limit.

The Targa Florio is known for its classic European machinery – everything from Alfa Romeos and Ferraris to Mercedes-Benzes and BMW – but organisers are hoping to inject a local flavour into the event.

"We'd really like to see a section within the Targa Florio Australian Tribute that really reflects the Australian muscle car culture and flavour," says Caniglia.

Until now the closest thing Aussies have had to a Targa Florio is the limited edition version of the legendary Leyland P76. The troubled P76 spawned a Targa Florio edition with stripes, unique wheels and a limited slip differential.