Giro d'Italia Automobilistico
SILHOUETTES RACING ON PUBLIC ROADS — Giro d’Italia Automobilistico
“I ENJOYED THE RALLY EXPERIENCE IMMENSELY!”
— Interview with Riccardo Patrese
“A 600 HP MONSTER ON THE ROAD? I COULDN’T SAY NO!”
— Interview with Emilio Radelli
FIAT-ABARTH, LANCIA AND ALFA ROMEO SPECIAL CARS FOR THE GIRO D'ITALIA
There has been a strong connection with open road racing in Italy since the early days of motorsport, and the Mille Miglia is still regarded as one of the most spectacular races of all time. After the last edition of that famous race in 1957, tough and spectacular road racing continued to thrive in places such as the old street circuit of Mugello, the Circuito del Garda and the more famous Targa Florio. When the last of these events had to be given up, plans were already being made at the Automobile Club di Torino to keep supercars racing up close to the public, through villages and using public roads.
The result was an event that inherited its name from a competition held for the first time in 1901, starting from Turin and reaching Milan after 1,660 kilometres (again, the Italian infatuation with the Mille Miglia). The new ‘Girod’Italia Automobilistico’ wasn’t a full-speed race; instead, it used a format similar to the Tour de France Auto. It included circuit racing on the most important Italian ‘autodromi’ as well as some of the best mountain hillclimbs. The overall formula was almost like a rally, with special stages and not-too-sedate timed sections in between.
The Automobile Club di Torino decided, however, to go further, and from the fourth running the Giro included some true rally stages as well. The time slot for the event was at the end of October, typically a rainy period in central Italy, so what came out of the wash was a really challenging race with all kinds of difficulties. In 1980 there was even some snow on the roadsides of some of the special stages, drivers having to tame monsters like the Porsche 935 and the Lancia Beta Montecarlo Group 5 in those tricky conditions.
From the first edition, the Giro d’Italia was open to the traditional Groups 1, 2, 3 and 4 defined by Appendix J of the FIA International Sporting Code, and to a special prototypes class at there quest of Fiat. The marque became an ardent supporter of the race, building special cars for the Giro d’Italia almost every year and sending its works drivers. The period at the end of the racing season was considered an opportune time to test new cars not yet homologated for the following season, which is another reason why the Giro, today an almost-forgotten event, attracted such big names and a number of cars never seen anywhere else. Special and prototype cars were initially admitted under Group 5 special rules, and later on under the ‘Silhouette’ specifications that were used in the FIA World Championship from 1976. The rules were very liberal: except for the bodywork, which had to be ‘similar’ to the production model, there was almost unlimited freedom on the mechanical side, which led to some fascinating one-offs for this unique race…
More in the current issue!
by Ugo Vicenzi