Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Giant Killer

On June 10, 1956, the company now known as Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, celebrated one of its biggest and most important racing victories. Italian racecar driver Umberto Maglioli was the surprise overall winner in a Porsche 550 A Spyder at what was then the world's longest-standing and most difficult road race, the Targo Florio. The young company Porsche gained worldwide recognition with this victory, as it was the first time that a driver in a smaller racing class vehicle of up to two liters cylinder displacement managed to beat vehicles with a higher cylinder displacement. With an average speed of 90.9 m/h and a lead of nearly 15 minutes on the second place vehicle, Maglioli not only out-classed the competition but also assured the first overall victory for Porsche in the Brand World Championships.

This victory was made all the more surprising because of the fact that the Porsche 550 A Spyder only debuted eleven days before the Targa Florio at a 1,000-kilometer race on the Nürburgring. Spurred on by the victory in this class, Porsche's Head of Racing, Huschke von Hanstein, traveled to Sicily with driver Maglioli and two mechanics to test the open-top Spyder's competitiveness once again. In contrast to other road races of the time, routes were not closed during training, so the drivers always had to be prepared for traffic and obstacles. Furthermore, for the Stuttgart sports car manufacturer, it was the first time they took part in this legendary race as, at the time, the Targo Florio was seen as the territory of large Italian racing stables. Maglioli completed the 720-kilometer route without changing drivers in a time of 7:54.52 hours – and thanks to the reliability of his Porsche, only pulled in to the pit stop to refuel.

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