British driver, five times winner of Le Mans 24 Hours, three times Daytona 24 winner and the two times World Sports Car champion.
Derek began racing as an amateur in a Lotus 7 at Goodwood, winning his first ever race in March 1964, in the wet. He quickly progressed to Formula 3 and then Formula 2 with the backing of his step-father’s Church Farm Racing team, turning professional within three years when Enzo Ferrari offered him a Formula 2 drive in the Monza Lotteria. Between 1968 and 1974 he competed in 16 Formula 1 Grand Prix, racing for Ferrari, McLaren, Surtees and Tecno, with a single World Championship point to his credit, driving a Surtees to sixth place at the US Grand Prix, Watkins Glen, in 1970.
Derek’s real talent lay with endurance racing, where he has become a legend. He won back to back World Sports Car Championship titles in 1985 and 1986, three 24 Hours of Daytona in 1986, 1987 and 1989 and five Le Mans victories in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987. Derek’s consistent team mate during this period was Jacky Ickx, racing several Porsche types together, including the Porsche 936, the Porsche 956 and the Porsche 962. The Bell/Ickx is partnership is considered as one of the most famous driver pairings in motorsport history.
He was at his prime during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, becoming the most successful driver of all-time during the reign of the Porsche 956 and Porsche 962, achieving no fewer than 16 outright victories in the World Endurance Championship and 19 in the IMSA Camel GT Championship, a total of 35 wins in seven years.
In 1970 he filmed the cult movie Le Mans with the iconic film star Steve McQueen becoming friends with the man who stated ‘You know, I’m not an actor. I just play myself’, who proved to be just as talented behind the wheel of a race car as he was on screen. During the course of filming Derek showed that motorsport, even for the silver screen, can be a dangerous business, suffering burns to his face when the Ferrari 512 he was driving caught fire following a racing sequence on the Le Mans circuit.