Derek Bell began his career with a Lotus Seven before heading into Formula 3. Over the years, he climbed the ranks in single-seaters all the way to the Formula 1 World Championship in which he competed in 10 Grand Prix between 1968 and 1977 (for Ferrari and McLaren among others). At the same time, the British driver debuted in endurance racing and took the start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 at the wheel of a Ferrari 512S shared with Ronnie Peterson (retirement after an accident in the fourth hour). The following year, he became a member of the John Wyer Automotive Engineeering team and joined forces with Jo Siffert to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the wheel of a Porsche 917K, and in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a 917 LH (Longtail, retirement in the 18th hour due to an oil leak).
In all, Derek Bell has 26 participations in the 24 Hours to his credit, the majority with Porsche (14). He also drove Mirage-Fords, Renault-Alpine A442s, a Courage C30LM and a Kremer K8 Spyder. His main claims to fame are his five wins at Le Mans:
1975 with a Mirage GR8-Ford with Jacky Ickx
1981 with a Porsche 936/81 with Jacky Ickx
1982 with a Porsche 956 with Jacky Ickx
1986 with a Porsche 962C with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Al Holbert
1987 with Porsche 962C with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Al Holbert
Bell competed for the last time in 1996 at the wheel of David Price Racing's McLaren F1 GTR shared with Olivier Grouillard and Andy Wallace (sixth). He was named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1986 for his contributions to motorsport. He also took part in the filming of Steve McQueen's movie "Le Mans" in 1970.
In this video, Derek Bell discusses his participations in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and gives his thoughts on racing at night.
VIDEO: YouTube - Peter Windsor
PHOTO: Derek Bell's win in 1975 at the wheel of the Mirage GR-8 Ford shared with Jacky Ickx.