To celebrate the 105-year history of Sicily’s oldest endurance motor race, all competitors at this weekend’s COPPA FLORIO 12H Sicily will be gifted a replica of the original bronze ‘plaquettes’ awarded to drivers on the original Coppa Florio between 1905 and 1929.
To commemorate the official revival of the Coppa Florio this weekend in Sicily, replicas of the original bronze plaquettes bestowed to drivers in 1905 will be awarded to all participating drivers after Thursday evening’s ‘hill climb’ to Enna.
The hill climb will feature all 24 cars competing in the inaugural COPPA FLORIO 12H Sicily driving nearly 15km through the mountains, on closed public roads, into Enna’s city centre at speeds of up to 70kph. Once there, all participants will be welcomed into the provincial capital by race fans and the city’s mayor, Maurizio Dipietro. Outside City Hall, Signore Dipietro will present all drivers with a commemorative reproduction of the original 1905 bronze Coppa Florio plaque.
Alongside a 50,000 Italian lira prize purse awarded to the most successful manufacturer during the first seven editions of the Coppa Florio, event founder Vincenzo Florio also commissioned Polak Ainé to craft a silver trofeo for the winner. Among Europe’s most respected jewelers in the early 1900s, Polak Ainé, formerly Polak-Brook, was renamed in 1895 after being bequeathed to company founder Abraham Polak’s son Emmanuel after his death. By 1905, Polak Ainé had established branches in Paris (of which Florio was a frequent customer) and Nice, and come the Coppa Florio’s ‘final’ initial run in 1929, had added Berlin and Ostend to its growing empire as well.
Polak’s design depicted an automobile at speed and a lady leaning outstretched on the bonnet, the contrails of her dress flowing down the flanks of the car. It’s a design that, today, draws curbed parallels with the spirit of ecstasy originally commissioned by Baron John Montegu and sculpted by Charles Robinson Sykes in 1909, and which has been synonymous with luxury British carmaker Rolls-Royce ever since.
The original plan was for the Coppa Florio to be awarded to the manufacturer with the most wins after the first seven editions. Ironically though, with Itala (’05), Isotta Fraschini (’07), Fiat (’08), Nazzaro (’14), Ballot (’21), Peugeot (’22) and Mercedes-Benz (’24) each taking one win apiece, the coppa was not awarded until Peugeot took its second win in 1925, two decades after the first edition. You can check out a brief history of the original running of the Coppa Florio HERE and in our event magazine HERE
In the interim, and to remind drivers and manufacturers alike what they were competing for, Florio also commissioned a set of bronze plaquettes showcasing Polak Ainé’s trophy, examples of which, apparently, can still fetch upwards of 1,000 euros with discerning collectors.
Interestingly, event scholars will notice the original plaquettes commemorated the 1905 ‘Coppa Vincenzo Florio’, and it was only from 1906 onwards that the founder dropped his Christian name from the event. Clearly, the coppa concept had struck a chord with Vincenzo Florio though, as Targa Florio winners from 1906 onwards were also awarded bronze plaques.
Though French artisan Renè Lalique was commissioned to create the 1906 and 1907 plaquettes, for 1908, Florio requested bronze interpretations of the work that artist Duilio Cambellotti had created for the Coppa-Targa Florio-dedicated magazine, Rapiditas. The design proved so popular that it remained an event staple until 1925, and a revised version was even reintroduced to the event from 1948 onwards.
Images courtesy of Petr Frýba