In this wonderfully evocative image, the Lancia D24 driven by Gino Valenzano is overtaking the Aston Martin DB3S driven by Reg Parnell with Louis Klemantaski acting as navigator, and occasional photographer when he could catch a moment. Valenzano had started two minutes after the Aston. It is now probably about 6 AM with a lot of morning fog still apparent. Unfortunately, both the Lancia and the Aston would be eliminated in accidents. Parnell and Klemantaski slid off into a group of bollards along a mountain road inland from Pescara in the Abruzzi mountains not long before Rome. An earlier car had had a similar crash in the same spot and had covered the road with sand. The spectators were trying to warn Parnell to be careful, but he thought they were urging him on!
For the 1954 Mille Miglia Lancia was fully committed and entered four of their new D24s, driven by Alberto Ascari, Piero Taruffi, Eugenio Castellotti, and Valenzano. The D24 had a 3.2 liter V6, four valve, four camshaft motor designed by the famed Vittorio Jano with a front elliptic spring suspension and De Dion rear suspension, similar to the Ferraris of the period. Ascari lasted the distance, although he had some mechanical trouble, but captured the win. And before the end of May Taruffi had won the Targa Florio with another D24. But trying to have a full sports car effort during 1954 while designing and developing the very complex D50 grand prix car, put Lancia on the road to ruin which came a year later.
The Aston Martin DB3S, originally introduced in 1953, eventually became quite a successful sports car over a number of years, especially for private entrants who obtained most of the production. It did not have the power from its somewhat dated 3 liter in-line twin overhead-cam six to compete head-to-head with the best from Jaguar, Ferrari and Maserati, but was a nice handling and very honest 1950s sports-racer and reliable if not abused.
Valenzano was an Italian journeyman driver who got into Lancias from having been a schoolboy mate of Gianni Lancia who ran the company. He competed in the important Italian classic races after the War as well as doing a couple of runs at Sebring and Le Mans before retiring as a driver in 1955 following the death of his brother in a mountain race in the Dolomites where he had also been a competitor.
Reg Parnell was closely allied to Aston Martin over many years, but also raced a wide variety of sports and grand prix cars with excellent success. Even while continuing to race, he took up team management and was in charge for Aston Martin’s “Final Victory” at Le Mans in 1959. Parnell was a tough can-do type of driver, such as when he repaired the throttle of the Aston DB3 he shared with Klemantaski in the 1953 Mille Miglia by wiring it wide open and controlling the speed of their car for much of the last half of the race by using the ignition switch – and finishing fifth overall.
Photo by Louis Klemantsaki ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com