Nino Vaccarella (born 4 March 1933) is an Italian former sports car racing and Formula One driver, born in Palermo, Sicily.
After winning the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, the former headmaster of a nearby school became the local hero of the Targa Florio race after winning in 1965, then repeating in 1971 and again in 1975, when it was no more a World Sportscar Championship event. He also drove the big V12-powered Ferrari 512S in a heroic yet ultimately losing effort in 1970, damaging the car in the final stages.
Vaccarella participated in five World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 10 September 1961. He scored no championship points. He also participated in several non-Championship Formula One races.
Vaccarella’s sportscar career was more successful, he was most well known for being a Targa Florio specialist; he was born in Sicily and according to Vic Elford “he knew the roads on Sicily like the back of his hand”. He was teamed with Umberto Maglioli for the 1960 Targa Florio in a birdcage Maserati, which was owned by the Camoradi team. Maglioli had won the race twice previously and Vaccarella resided on the course and was a schoolteacher in Palermo. They took the lead in the early afternoon of 8 May, maintained it for three laps, and then broke down. The event was won by Joakim Bonnier and Hans Herrmann in a small silver Porsche. Vaccarella was paired with Lorenzo Bandini in the 1965 Targa Florio. The drove their Ferrari around the 10 twisting laps to claim victory in the 447.4 mile Sicilian event. They averaged 63.7 miles per hour and finished in 7 hours, 1 minute, 12.4 seconds. In a Ferrari 330, Vaccarella and Bandini led most of the way in 1966. Their car missed a turn on the seventh lap, ran off the road and was too damaged to continue. Vaccarella had been in the Ferrari when he waved his hand to acknowledge the cheers of enthusiastic fans. He made contact with a retaining wall that was inscribed Viva Nino. Maglioli and Vaccarella piloted a Ford GT-40 to fifth place in the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring. The 8 May 1968 Giornalia Di Sicilia proclaimed in its headline, Only Vaccarella Can Bring Off The Miracle. The meaning had to do with the Sicilian driver’s great task of gaining victory in the Targa Florio in his 2.5-litre Alfa Romeo, called the Tipo 33. He was up against four German competitors who were driving Porsche 910 models. The Porsches had recently swept the endurance races at Daytona and Sebring. Few experts gave the four Alfa Romeos much of a chance against the flawless Porsches, but Sicilians were trusting the skill of Vaccarella’s driving. Vaccarella qualified eighth for the 1970 24 Hours of Daytona in a Ferrari 512S. This was one of a series of 11 endurance events held in Europe and North America for the 1970 world manufacturers championship. Vaccarella and Toine Hezemans won the 1971 Targa Florio in an Alfa Romeo. They crossed the finish line over a minute ahead of Andrea de Adamich and Gijs van Lennep, who also drove an Alfa Romeo. This race ended the dominance of Porsche, which had finished first in the previous five Targa Florio races. Vaccarella competed in the 1972 12 Hours of Sebring in one of four Alfa Romeo 33/3TT’s to be entered in the event. His driving partner was Nanni Galli. They qualified fifth after another Alfa Romeo of Rolf Stommelen and Peter Revson, who started third.
Vacarella was selected for the 1962 Ferrari Formula One race team by Enzo Ferrari. He was joined by John Surtees, Mike Parkes, Willy Mairesse, Bandini, and Ludovico Scarfiotti.