Nino Vaccarella was born in Palermo on March 4, 1933. Graduated in law, on the untimely death of his father Nino dedicated himself, with his sister, to running the private school, owned by the family, and in the meantime he took part in the first local races aboard the Fiat 1100 inherited from his father, with whom immediately placed fifth in his class in the uphill race Passo di Rigano-Bellolampo.
Subsequently he buys a Lancia Aurelia 2500 with which he participates in the uphill races of the 1957-58 seasons. In 1959, after buying a Maserati, he began to participate in the Sport 2000 category obtaining significant results, including the Monte Erice time trial, which brought him to the attention of Count Giovanni Volpi, son of a well-known political figure and owner of a prestigious racing car stable for Formula 1, Sport and Gran Turismo races.
Subsequently, Vaccarella will become an official Ferrari driver, with whom he will get the second place together with Scarfiotti in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the victory of the 1000 Kilometer of the Nürburgring (again with Scarfiotti) on May 31st 1964 and of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (with Jean Guichet) on 20, 21 and 22 June of the same year with the Ferrari 275 P and will then switch to Alfa Romeo.
In Formula 1 he competed four Grand Prix in three different championships: the 1961, 1962 and 1965 Italian Grand Prix with the De Tomaso, Lotus and Ferrari teams respectively, and the 1962 German Grand Prix with the Porsche team.
Beniamino of Sicilian fans, he participates with particular commitment and frequency in the Targa Florio which he won in 1965 paired with Lorenzo Bandini, (Ferrari 275 P), in 1971 with Toine Hezemans (Alfa Romeo 33/3 Sport Prototipo) and in 1975 with Arturo Merzario (Alfa Romeo 33TT12 spyder) in his last race as a driver.
In the editions of 1962 and 1970 he then won third place and in that of 1963 he was disqualified by an inflexible race commissioner, as he did not have the driving license that had been withdrawn in 1961, due to a road accident in Pescara.
Vaccarella's important palmarès is studded with many victories in international races in the Sport-prototype category, in which he conquers, with Ferrari, the 1964 world title. In 1970 he returns to Ferrari to drive the 512S in the World Championship for Makes, wins the 12 Hours of Sebring with Ignazio Giunti and Mario Andretti, comes second in the 1000 Kilometers of Monza with Giunti, third in the Targa Florio again with Giunti and in the 1000 Kilometers of Nurburgring with John Surtees and fourth in the 1000 Kilometers of Spa again with Giunti.
Unfortunate participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans where, after setting the second time in qualifying, he retires after half an hour due to engine failure. Also at Le Mans the following year he was the protagonist of a great performance at the wheel of the Ferrari 512M of the Spanish Montjuich team, paired with the gentleman driver Josè Juncadella.
During the night the Italian-Spanish crew manages to overtake the official Porsche 917s and take the lead. The breakdown of the transmission will lead Ferrari to retire when he had one lap ahead of the winners Marko-Van Lennep. In the racing world Nino is known by the nickname of Volante Principal, due to his activity as principal in the private school owned by the family, in Palermo.
Famous is an episode that shows all the difficulty of making sporting commitments coexist with school work, which occurred at the end of his victorious race at Le Mans: Vaccarella, in spite of himself, is forced to refuse to participate in the ritual celebrations of the winner to race at Orly airport and be able to be on time for lessons the next morning.