Derek Reginald Bell MBE (b. 1941)
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Derek Bell

Derek Bell MBE
Derek Bell MBE, won the Le Mans 24-Hour race in June for the fifth time in 1987. This was an achievement exceeded by only one man, his former driving partner Jacky Ickx, who had six successes (three of them with Bell) and, at the age of 45, Bell was by far Britain's most successful sportscar driver.

As well as winning the 24-Hour race for the fifth time, Derek Bell also set another unique record: in 1986 he and Al Holbert won the Daytona 24-Hour race in January, and Le Mans in June, and they pulled off the same double in 1987. That is 96 hours of real endurance racing, unbeaten.

Bell's first Le Mans victory was in 1975, with Jacky Ickx in the Gulf Mirage DFV. In 1977 and 1978 he led the race for Renault/Alpine, but failed to finish, and in 1980 he drove a works Porsche for the first time to 13th place.

The 924 Carrera GT was never going to be a winner, certainly not when it burned out three exhaust valves before the race was over, but this first drive for Dr Porsche's team was the lift-off point for Bell's professional career.

In 1981 he and Ickx won handsomely at Le Mans in the Jules-sponsored 936, a perfect run during which the cover was never lifted from the engine. Mass, on the other hand, had a variety of problems and finished 12th in a supposedly identical car.

The following year Ickx and Bell led a crushing Porsche 1-2-3 victory, only the second race in the 956's life, but in 1983 they were very narrowly beaten by Vern Schuppan, Hurley Haywood and Al Hollbert.

In 1984 Porsche withdrew its entries in an argument with FISA about rule changes, and in 1985 Bell and Stuck finished third (to the Joest and Lloyd cars) in a works Porsche which was less than totally compatible with its engine management system. The record from 1981 for Bell at Le Mans was first, first, second, third, first and first.

Bell became deeply unhappy about the World Championship fuel consumption formula, preferring the uninhibited American sportscar formula. During interview, Bell stated "We are racing drivers, not computer operators, and you forget what real racing is until you drive in America. I imagine that Formula One is like that as well. Surely there must be some clever people out there who can come up with something better after all these years. In America you can get into a really good race without worrying about the consumption, and if you run short you can dash into the pits for a bit more, and that's your penalty against the Jaguars which don't have a fuel consumption problem".

There were many other interviews that demonstrated, time and again, that Bell believed there was an element of luck to racing - and it was something he felt was not always on his side. Cynics might say that there's no such thing as luck, that every team makes its own destiny, and to a large extent that is true. Even so, there is often an extra ingredient that can't be explained, as Bell found at Le Mans in 1981 and again in 1987.

World Sportscar Championship Titles and Driving At Mount Panorama

Outside of Le Mans, Bell would win two World Sportscar Championship titles in 1985 and 1986, three in the 24 Hours of Daytona (1986-1987 and 1989) along with his five victories at Le Mans in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987), mostly teamed with Jacky Ickx in one of the Porsche 936 and Porsche 956/Porsche 962 models. Ickx/Bell is nowadays considered as one of the most famous pairings in motorsport history.

Other noteable appearances include the 1977 Bathurst 1000 (with co-driver Gary Leggatt), 1978 Bathurst 1000 (with co-driver Dieter Quester), 1979 Bathurst 1000 (with co-driver Phil McDonell), 1980 Bathurst 1000 (with co-driver Phil McDonell) and 1981 Bathurst 1000 as co-driver to Allan Moffat. This last outing was his best result at the mount, the duo coming 3rd in their Mazda RX7.

Bell was one of many drivers to take part in the filming of Le Mans (1970) starring Steve McQueen. Bell had a lucky escape during the making of the film. The Ferrari 512 he was driving suddenly caught fire whilst getting into position for a take. He managed to get out of the car just before is was engulfed in flames and suffered minor burns. The car was badly damaged but later rebuilt.

Bell was awarded the MBE in 1986 for services to motorsport.
Le Mans 24 Hour Race record 1970 - 1987
Shared works Ferrari 512S with Ronnie Peterson Retired in 4th hour, engine
Shared Gulf-Porsche 917 with Jo Siffert Retired in 18th hour, engine
Shared Ferrari 365 GTB/4 with Teddy Pilette and Richard Bond Finished 8th overall
Shared Gulf-Mirage with Howden Ganley Retired In 18th hour, engine
Shared Gulf-Mirage with Mike Hailwood Finished 4th overall
Shared Gulf·Mirage with Jacky lckx Overall winner
Shared Gulf-Mirage with Vern Schuppan Finished 5th overall
Shared works Renault-Alpine with Jean-Pierre Jabouille Retired in 18th hour, piston
Shared works Renault-Alpine with Jean-Pierre Jarler Retired in 11th hour, transmission
Shared Mirage M10 DFV with David Hobbs and Vern Schuppan Retired last lap, engine
Shared factory Porsche 924 Carreta GTR with Al Holbert Finished 13th overall
Shared factory Porsche 936 with Jacky Ickx Overall winner
Shared factory Porsche 956 with Jacky Ickx Overall winner
Shared factory Porsche 956 with Jacky Ickx Finished 2nd overall
Shared factory Porsche 962C with Hans Stuck Finished 3rd overall
Shared factory Porsche 962C with Hans Stuck and Al Holbert Overall winner
Shared factory Porsche 962C with Hans Stuck and Al Holbert Overall winner
Derek Bell Porsche Gulf 917 Le Mans 1971
Derek Bell's first taste of Porsche power at Le Mans came in 1971 in a Gulf 917...
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