American victory at Sebring
Aston-Martin finishes second
The International 12-Hour Sports-Car Race at Sebring, U.S.A. was notable for David Brown sending out two DB3 Aston Martins, 2.9-litre models, under the care of John Wyer, for Duke/Collins and Parnell/Abecassis to drive.
The start saw Parnell beat everyone in the Le Mans start, but then his engine faltered and a door swung open, hitting a marker bin. This pushed the all-enveloping body onto the wheels and not only was Reg last by a big margin, but a pit-stop was necessary, losing in all some five minutes. The other DB3 dogged the leading 5.4-litre open Cunningham driven by Fitch and Walters until after some three hours Collins was in the lead. Duke took over and soon after, in swerving and opening-up to avoid another car, when a head-on crash into is marker bin was the only alternative, approached his corner too last, slid, and rammed an American-entered Jaguar. He limped to his pit and had to retire, with damage to the car's rear end.
Meanwhile, Parnell and Abecassis held on to the leading Cunningham, and failed to win by a very small margin. A C-type Jaguar was third but many laps behind the smaller British car.
The Index of Performance, the little 750-c.c. blown DB Panhard won from the Aston-Martin and Cunningham Junior's Osca. This puts Cunningham and Jaguar into the lead for the vital World's Sports-Car Championship, followed by Aston-Martin.
Parnell and Duke flew back to England via T.W.A. on the Thursday after the race. Parnell said the race was difficult to drive in because International flag signals were absent and drivers told they could pass on either side until going into a corner -- which the Gordini and DB drivers did with a vengeance. Parnell was warm in his praise of the Americans, who gave way and waved him on when necessary. He had enjoyed his stay in the warmth of U.S. weather and hospitality, but found the food tasteless. The course he described as very abrasive on tyres and slippery when wet. The DB3's had Avon tyres which stood up very well, which suggests that they should be excellent for the cars you and I drive. The only flags Reg saw were green ones held out to show the course was clear -- and as he said, "who wants to know that! " -- and yellow ones to denote emergency. Green lamps were used at night. The marker bins were huge things, made heavy because they were full of water.
John. Wyer said the DB3s " had never gone better." A stoplamp was mounted centrally for use after dark, outside the radiator grille. Duke was not hurt by his crash. These drivers were televised on arrival at London Airport, where two rather tatty Lagonda saloons awaited them. But George and Peter had elected to stay on in America. The race had received only medium spectator-support, due to its location. London news agencies had stupid stories of the British drivers showing unsportmanlike wrath at not winning. In actual fact, Aston-Martin had done very nicely in their first engagement of the season. A Frazer Nash retired with a sheared distributor drive, another with sheared wheel studs.
The next Aston-Marton engagement will be the Mille Miglia on April 26th, when Parnell will have as intrepid passenger the bearded photographer, Louis Klementaski. -- W. B.