Later today, the Targa Florio Conversion Team will be releasing the iconic Targa Florio for rFactor, adding what is arguably the most challenging and grueling circuit in the history of motorsport to the simulation.
If you´re wondering what all the fuss about yet another rFactor track is about, you probably aren’t aware of the specifics of this event. Used until the 1970s, the Targa Florio is a massive 72 kilometer race track on the Italian island of Sicily.
By today’s standards, this circuit can’t even be called a race track, it is more like a circular rally stage. There are no gravel traps, curbs or catch fences but pure Italian roads winding their way through the countryside and various villages.
The Targa Florio hosted an annual world championship event that had touring cars, GTs and even prototypes race on these public roads until the mid 70s. Even in a time when death was a common occurrence in racing, the Targa Florio was considered to be an insane event and the track’s unique challenges were both fascinating and scaring the participating drivers.
Despite its massive length, the track is less than 200mbs in size. Since this track is more than three times as long as the Nürburgring Nordschleife, loading takes quite a while. With 8GB of ram and rFactor installed on a SSD drive, the track loads in about 50 seconds.
Since most sim racers have never driven this track or seen any of the very rare on-board footage, the first runs are all about learning the track. Don’t expect to make rapid progress on that front though as the Targa consists about 900(!) different corners.
Thankfully, racers don’t have to take a full lap around the place just to start a timed lap as the starting garage is placed right before the start/finish area. Your best bet is to take a slow and easy to drive touring car and just enjoy the scenery for the first laps around.
There’s plenty to see as both the original creators and the conversion team have packed in a lot of great details as drivers are treated to beautiful countryside and villages with plenty of details such as graffitis that cheer on the fan’s favorite drivers such as hometown hero Nino Vaccarella.
Depending on your speed and talent, your first lap will be done in any time between 40 to 60 minutes. I had to abort my first run in the BMW 2002tii because I ran out of fuel in the middle of the lap, the standard setup of most mods simply does not put in enough fuel to even get around once.
The first few laps, you´ll be driving purely on sight, always wondering what will come up behind the next crest. After a few laps, partly familiarity kicks in as you remember having seen that village or that herd of goats besides the road. Unfortunately, this leads to false confidence as you´ll think you know what’s coming up after the next corner – Unfortunately you don’t…. crashes and spins will be a common occurrence once you try to turn up the speed after a few laps.
I can’t remember having to learn the Nürburgring Nordschleife as I´ve been racing it in various sims for over 15 years and have watched races there since I was a little kid. I know that many sim racers have been struggling with that though so the Targa might very well drive some people insane. Right now, I´m not sure if it`s even possible to know you way around there like on a regular circuit.
The Targa is not just time consuming (a few “quick laps” easily eat up a whole afternoon), it’s a big test of endurance too as I´ve never felt as mentally drained and exhausted just by sim racing after two consecutive laps there. The seemingly endless string of tight bends and lack of straights gives the driver very little time for some mental rest.
Despite it’s massive size and the beautiful graphics, the track isn’t that much of a performance hog as I´ve been getting around 130fps compared to 280fps on normal tracks. Given that the track is more than 10x as long as normal venues, roughly doubled performance requirements speak volumes of great optimizing by the creators.
As great as the Targa is, it isn’t much of a place for actual racing as the track is notoriously tight at some points. Even the world championship sports car events there were more of a time trial as cars were started a minute apart of each other as overtaking is an extremely delicate matter on this track.
Since this track was used until the 1970s, the mod’s of choice to use it with are Historic GT & Touring Cars as well as the World Sports Car 1970 mod that includes many of the prototypes and GTs that were typically raced on the Targa.
Whether or not you´re into historic racing, the Targa Florio is a track that every rFactor user has to experience at least once! Not just because of the sheer length of the track or the sheer amount of work that has gone into making the virtual version but to experience a stunning piece of motorsport history (almost) first hand.
The wait for the Targa Florio is over in a few hours… a fraction of time compared to the life time it takes to masters this Sicilian rollercoaster.