The 1906 Targa Florio was an open road endurance race held in the mountains of Sicily. There were three laps of a 92.5 mile (149 km) circuit for a total of 277.4 miles (446.4 km). The winner drove for 9½ hours averaging 29 mph (46.7 km/h). The competitors were shot at by brigands, so the promoter (Vincenzo Florio) appointed the three most important mafiosi as stewards of the meeting, to stop this happening again.
Although there are no numbers on this model, four of the first five places in the 1906 race were won by drivers in an Itala 35/40 hp similar to this one. A "red sled."
Itala 35/40 HP.
in a 1907 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?
And so the famous Peking to Paris (Parigi/Pechino) “race” was held that year, a distance of 9,317 miles (14,994 km). The prize for the first car to reach Paris was a magnum of Mumm champagne. The race began in 1907 on June 10 and the winner finished two months later. It was held during a time when cars were fairly new and the route traversed remote areas of Asia where people were not yet familiar with motor travel. Following a telegraph route, the race went through countryside where there were forest paths and caravan trails, but no roads or roadmaps. For the race, camels carrying fuel left Peking and set up at stations along the route, to provide fuel for the racers.
Much of the road was too steep for the cars' small engines, and mules or men pulling ropes hitched to the cars were needed to drag them through the mountain passes. At one point, a bridge collapsed under the Itala, which nevertheless survived to finish the trip.
The winner drove a 35/45 Itala
. In second place was a Spyker which arrived 20 days later than the winning Itala. From spiderbomb.com:
Bodywork was rudimentary, containing two front seats and a rear seat flanked by twin 150 litre petrol tanks. All could be removed to lighten the car when extricating it from a bog. The rear seat was often filled with luggage, the 3rd man then sitting on the front floor with feet on the running board. Initially, the mudguards (wings) consisted of four "iron planks" which could be removed quickly to aid in crossing obstacles. However, these were discarded soon after the start as part of what became a continuing process of weight reduction and the majority of the trip was completed in an open-wheeler. Consider the Gobi desert in summer, dust and then mud, rain throughout much of Russia, all in an open car.
The many trials and dangers encountered on this famous race make fascinating stories. Would make a good movie. See historic photos and read more here: http://www.unmuseum.org/autorace.htm
Itala 35/45 HP.