Unfortunately, it will be impossible for us to completely follow in the footsteps of the Type 35 which is illustrated there: the roads, still open to traffic, are today in too bad condition for such a low car to be able to travel there. It must be said that their maintenance is the responsibility of the provinces, an administrative division that has not existed for a few years, so that no one today really knows who should be responsible for repairing the roads on the island. “In the past, they were much better coated, because the passage of the Targa Florio each year, with prototypes of over 400 hp, required regular maintenance,” explains Giuseppe Vitale. This Palermo cardiologist is living proof that the memory of the Targa Florio is still very much present in Sicily. In his spare time, he produces models of extreme precision reproducing the most famous cars of this legendary race. One of his friends, Enzo Manzo, set up the Targapedia site, which brings together an incredible number of photos from all editions. “This site has made it possible to make discoveries, to update photos never seen before. There has been real emulation on the part of people who had hitherto hidden their treasures, ”continues Giuseppe Vitale.

The frail Type 35 and the Divo

The Divo and the Type 35, unloaded in the center of Collesano, in the province of Palermo, do not fail to create a crowd. Andy Wallace, official Bugatti driver with a long track record, is present. An old man approaches him, telling him in Italian that he looks exactly like Stirling Moss, a British driver who had distinguished himself in Formula 1 from 1951 to 1962. Andy Wallace seems delighted at this emotionally charged compliment.

The contrast is impressive between the frail Type 35 and the Divo which presents itself as its descendant. The latter is flat, extremely wide (2.02 m for 1.21 m high). It almost looks like a stealth machine in this visible carbon livery, covered with a varnish that tints the reflections of blue. Each carbon fiber is meticulously oriented by hand so that alignment is the same throughout the body. An option whose price is around 300,000 euros… Which looks like a trifle on a car sold for 5 million euros tax free, ie the most expensive car in the world in production. It is indeed this body, very different from the Chiron, which is the salt of the Divo, but it would be reductive to consider it, precisely, as a simple Chiron dressed. If Bugatti gave it the name of Divo, it is because it must be able to tackle the extremely sinuous layout of the Mado-nies circuit, theater of the Targa Florio. Also, the settings of the running gear have been revised: the springs are firmer than on a Chiron and the camber has been increased. This increases the effort on the tires and forced the engineers to lower the flange to 380 km / h, against 420 km / h on the Chiron. Also, the Divo is 35 kg lighter (but still weighs 1,960 kg).

This morning, Andy Wallace smiles in relief. Because the Bugatti teams were afraid of not being able to take the planned route, with the bumpy and degraded surface. After a spotting, all is well. “The suspension of this car is extraordinary, it swallows bumps without trailing or losing its trajectory,” explains the driver. The way is clear: we can leave the historic stands of the Targa Florio to go up to Cerda, a few kilometers away, the first village crossed by the race.

The rise in power seems inexhaustible

This stretch of road, very winding, is probably not the best place to exploit the full capabilities of a car capable of catapulting you up to 300 km / h in about 13 seconds. But Bugatti wants above all to return to the scene of the crime and demonstrate the agility of its hypercar. From the first few meters, despite the intimidating rumble of the 8.0-liter W16 engine (which alone weighs 400 kg), you feel right at home. Thanks to a precise ingredient: a direction with an exceptional feeling. “Our developers have done an incredible job,” says Andy Wallace. By the way, when we had our colleagues at Porsche try the prototypes, they wanted to know more. But the components we use are too expensive for them. “

During the first kilometers, the traffic forces us to drive slowly. What to get used to the size and reactions of the car. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which alone is worth the price of a Porsche 911, is totally forgotten, picking up the gears with exemplary fluidity. Then the horizon emerges. A small stretch of straight line allows us to crush the accelerator to the floor. The strength is phenomenal. Less immediate and savage than in a McLaren 720 S, for example, but the rise in power seems inexhaustible. The next bend is already obvious to us, when we are far from the red zone. It’s time to smash the brake pedal. The slowdown is instantaneous, powerful. Without more burr than acceleration, despite the bumps that deform the asphalt. The colossal force is contained by the electronics. Making 1,500 hp perfectly usable is a real tour de force on the part of the engineers.

Almost a century old, the Type 35 has not said its last word. It is as capricious as the Divo is docile: before taking us as passengers, Andy Wallace must pressurize the tank with a manual pump, then pump three times using another lever to bring the gasoline into the tanks. carburetors. Finally, the eight-cylinder in-line snorts in a purr of incomparable charm.

Engaging the first requires a skilful dosage of the idle speed, otherwise the gearbox gears will crack. On the bends that lead to Cerda, the Type 35 feels at home. Compact (1.32 m wide), light (750 kg), it twirls in the curves by exploiting the width of the road, entirely occupied by the Divo a few minutes earlier. Despite its tires no wider than those of a moped, it clings to the asphalt with fervor. She is the exact opposite of the one who wants to pay homage to him. And yet, both arouse and will arouse the madness of collectors for a long time to come.

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Albert Divo at the Grand Prix of France 1924. It won two of Bugatti’s five victories at the Targa Florio, in 1928 and 1929. (Bugatti / SP)

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The tracks of the race according to the times. (Nicolas Meunier)

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The interior of the Divo. Billed at 5 million euros, this ultra luxurious car can be configured down to the smallest detail by its owner. (Bugatti / SP)

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In front of the Targa Florio museum, in Collesano. Carbon body, lowered chassis, 1,500 hp engine, top speed of 380 km / h … Barely out of the truck, the Divo creates a crowd. (Richard Pardon / SP)

Sports relics

In Collesano, the village where the legendary hairpin of the circuit is located, there is also the racing museum. There are real “Targa Florio”, the trophy offered to the winner, a gold plaque engraved by Lalique during the early years. Also to see, many posters, photos, suits and shoes signed Ciccio di Cefalù, who was for a long time a master of equipping the feet of pilots.

Museo Targa Florio, Collesano.