Nino Vaccarella’s curriculum vitae reads like no other. In it, you’ll discover that he has a law degree and that he worked for much of his life in an accounting school he ran with his sister. But you will also find several completely unrelated, and truly fantastic, racing results, including overall victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hour of Le Mans and the Targa Florio.
Born on March 4, 1933 in Palermo, Italy, Vaccarella spent his childhood in a town near the route of the famed Targa Florio open-road race. This piqued his interest in motorsport, and in 1956 he entered a Fiat 1100 in a hillclimb. He finished fifth in class and was hooked, soon upgrading to a Lancia Aurelia 2500 and, in 1959, a Maserati Birdcage.
Vaccarella’s skills behind the wheel soon attracted the attention of professional racing teams. In 1960, he contested the Targa Florio in a works Maserati Birdcage, and in 1961 he began running select Grands Prix for Scuderia Serenissima. His consistent good finishes and growing fame brought him to the attention of Enzo Ferrari—and in 1963, Vaccarella left Serenissima and signed on at Maranello.
Vaccarella would go on to score major victories for Ferrari. In 1964, he won the Nürburgring 1,000 Kms. with Ludovico Scarfiotti in a 275 P and took the overall victory at Le Mans with co-driver Jean Guichet in another 275 P. In 1965, he finally won his beloved Targa Florio, co-driving a 275 P2 with Lorenzo Bandini. Vaccarella also ran one Formula 1 race for Scuderia Ferrari, the 1965 Italian GP, but his day ended with an engine failure.
After a 1966 season plagued with DNFs, Vaccarella left Ferrari for Scuderia Brescia Corse, then signed on with the works Alfa Romeo team in 1968. Despite his new allegiance, in 1970 he raced a Ferrari 512 S a few more times for the factory—and won the 12 Hours of Sebring with Mario Andretti and Ignazio Giunti.
In 1971, Vaccarella took his second Targa Florio win, this time in an Alfa 33/3. He won a third time in 1975, driving an Alfa 33TT12, but hung up his helmet soon thereafter. He continued to work at his school for many more years before retiring.
FORZA reached Vaccarella by phone at his home in Italy. The extremely gracious former racer speaks little English, so he arranged the services of his nephew to help translate.