Sports car career
Sicily-born Vaccarella was well known for being a Targa Florio specialist. 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 previously won the race twice; Vaccarella was a schoolteacher in Palermo with a great passion for motorsport. They took the lead in the early afternoon on 8 May and maintained it for three laps until the car 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 when they won with an average speed of 63.7 miles per hour, finishing in 7 hours and 1 minute. 12.4 seconds. In 1966 Vaccarella and Bandini led most of the race until their Ferrari 330 ran off the track after seven laps and was too damaged to continue. While waving his hand to acknowledge the crowd, Vaccarella made eye contact with a retaining wall that carried the inscription Viva Nino. Maglioli and Vaccarella drove a Ford GT-40 to fifth place in the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring. The 8 May 1968 edition of Giornale 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. 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. 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. He 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.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
|1961||Scuderia Serenissima||De Tomaso F1||Alfa Romeo
|1962||Scuderia SSS Republica di Venezia||Lotus 18/21||Climax Straight-4||NED||MON
|Porsche 718||Porsche Flat-4||GER
|Lotus 24||Climax V8||ITA
|1965||Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC||Ferrari 158||Ferrari V8||RSA||MON||BEL||FRA||GBR||NED||GER||ITA
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1961||Scuderia Serenissima||De Tomaso F1||Alfa Romeo L4||LOM||GLV||PAU||BRX||VIE||AIN||SYR||NAP||LON||SIL||SOL||KAN||DAN||MOD
|Cooper T51||Maserati L4||VAL
|1962||Scuderia SSS Republica di Venezia||Lotus 18/21||Climax L4||CAP||BRX
|Porsche 718||Porsche F4||SOL
Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results
|1961||Scuderia Serenissima||Ludovico Scarfiotti||Maserati Tipo 63||S 3.0||53||DNF|
|1962||Scuderia SSS Republica di Venezia||Giorgio Scarlatti||Ferrari 250 GTO||GT 3.0||172||DNF|
|1964||SpA Ferrari SEFAC||Jean Guichet||Ferrari 275 P||P 5.0||349||1st||1st|
|1965||North American Racing Team||Pedro Rodríguez||Ferrari 365 P2 Spyder||P 5.0||320||7th||1st|
|1966|| Scuderia San Marco
North American Racing Team
|Mario Casoni||Dino 206 S||P 2.0||7||DNF|
|1967||SpA Ferrari SEFAC||Chris Amon||Ferrari 330 P3 Spyder||P 5.0||105||DNF|
|1968||Autodelta SpA||Giancarlo Baghetti||Alfa Romeo T33/2||P 2.0||150||DNF|
|1969||Equipe Matra - Elf||Jean Guichet||Matra-Simca MS630||P 3.0||359||5th||3rd|
|1970||SpA Ferrari SEFAC||Ignazio Giunti||Ferrari 512 S||S 5.0||7||DNF|
|1971||Escuderia Montjuich||José Juncadella||Ferrari 512 M||S 5.0||186||DNF|
|1972||Autodelta SpA||Andrea de Adamich||Alfa Romeo 33TT3||S 3.0||307||4th||4th|
Complete 12 Hours of Sebring results
|1962||Scuderia SSS Republica di Venezia||Carlo Maria Abate||Maserati Tipo 64||S3.0||16||DNF|
|1963||S.E.F.A.C. Ferrari|| Willy Mairesse
|Ferrari 250 P||P3.0||208||2nd||2nd|
|1964||S.E.F.A.C. Ferrari||Ludovico Scarfiotti||Ferrari 275 P||P+3.0||213||2nd||2nd|
|1967||Brescia Corse Team||Umberto Maglioli||Ford GT40||S5.0||223||5th||1st|
|1969||Autodelta, S.P.A.||Lucien Bianchi||Alfa Romeo T33/3||P3.0||17||DNF|
|1970||Ferrari S.P.A., S.E.F.A.C.|| Ignazio Giunti
|Ferrari 512 S||S5.0||248||1st||1st|
|1971||Autodelta, S.P.A.|| Andrea de Adamich
|Alfa Romeo T33/3||P3.0||248||3rd||2nd|
|Autodelta, S.P.A.||Toine Hezemans||Alfa Romeo T33/3||P3.0||27||DNF|
|1972||Autodelta, S.P.A.||Toine Hezemans||Alfa Romeo T33/3||S3.0||233||3rd||3rd|
Complete 24 Hours of Daytona results
|1968||Autodelta, S.P.A.||Udo Schütz||Alfa Romeo T33/2||P||617||5th||4th|
|1970||Ferrari S.P.A.||Ignazio Giunti||Ferrari 512 S||S||89||DNF|
- "Auto: è morto Ninni Vaccarella, vinse tre volte Targa Florio". Ansa. 23 September 2021.
- Bonnier and Herrman Capture 450-Mile Targa Florio in 7:33:8, New York Times, 9 May 1960, Page 37.
- 100,000 In Sicily See Famed Event, New York Times, 10 May 1965, Page 46
- Mairesse First In Targa Florio, New York Times, 9 May 1966, Page 74
- Vaccarella Will Carry Hopes Of Sicilian Auto Fans Today, New York Times, 5 May 1968, Page S27.
- Ford's No. 2 Car Is Given 2nd Place, New York Times, 3 April 1967, Page 44
- Porsches Capture Next Three Spots, New York Times, 31 January 1970, Page 40
- Italian Driver Is Killed in Race Won by Vaccarella-Hezemans, New York Times, 17 May 1971, Page 49
- Three Ferrari Teams to Seek Endurance Honors at Sebring, New York Times, 19 March 1972, Page S15.
- Andretti Captures Pole at Sebring With Lap Record, New York Times, 25 March 1972, Page 24.
- Ferrari Team Named, New York Times, 2 December 1962, Page 253.