At this moment we are with Reg Parnell and Louis Klemantaski on top of the starting ramp on Viale Venezia opposite the Parco Rebuffone in Brescia just before 5:35 A.M. on May 2, 1954.. Greeting Parnell and Klemantaski as they pull into their starting position is Renzo Castagneto, one of the four founders of the Mille Miglia. Parnell and Klemantaski are in an Aston Martin DB3S which carries number 535, equivalent to their starting time.
Aston Martin had entered two cars for the 1954 race with Peter Collins driving the other car along with Pat Griffith as his navigator. John Wyer, Aston’s famous Team Manager, had hopes for a good result in the race as Parnell and Klemantaski had finished fifth overall the year before in the earlier DB3 and Collins 16th. The DB3S was faster and handled even better although it was a development of the prior year’s model, not an all new car.
The Mille Miglia was probably the most dangerous race in a dangerous era. Prepare and practice as they might, only experienced Italian drivers could recall the entire route and rain was often experienced which made it even more dangerous. But even the Italians created detailed pace notes. The Astons used Avon tires which Wyer described as “hard as nickel chrome which made the cars almost undriveable in the rain.” They eventually took home some Pirellis and had Avon inspect them to develop better compounds.
Unfortunately, the 1954 Mille Miglia was a total disaster for Aston with both cars crashing out. Parnell and Klemantaski, well up with the leaders, arrived at a corner they knew well near L’Aquila on the climb up from Pescara into the mountains toward Rome where another car had recently crashed. Unfortunately, that incident had covered the road in sand and dirt and Parnell slid off into the fence on the outside which essentially destroyed their car. The Aston is seen here on the left with Parnell, now with a cigarette, standing dejectedly next to it. Spectators dragged the car across the road to the inside of the corner as Collins and Griffith came by. They were fifth at Rome but went off near Sienna and Wyer retired their car at the Aston refueling stop near Florence.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
To see more of our photographs please go to: http://www.klemcoll.com/TheGallery.aspx