Caught in the Paddock - Derek Bell at the Festival of Porsche

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In-car Video of Derek Bell at the Nurburgring

Audio Interview with Derek Bell

The Festival of Porsche at Brands Hatch was a mecca for fans of the German marque and in particular its dominance of sportscar racing in the mid-1980s with a fine display of Group C – and one IMSA-spec – 956s and 962s. One name linked with the model in most people’s minds is that of fine-times Le Mans winner Derek Bell, the display including the first ever factory Porsche 956 that he drove in 1982 and the very last factory 962 he raced at Le Mans in 1988.

Though remembered for his sportscar career and those Le Mans wins, it is worth remembering that Bell came to prominence as a single-seater racer in the 1960s, winning in Formula Three and Formula Two and driving for Ferrari in Formula One in 1968, making his race debut at Monza. He made his Le Mans debut in a Ferrari 512 in 1970, and that was also part of the driving team in the Le Mans film that starred Steve McQueen, the pair staying in touch until the actor’s death.

The first Le Mans win came in 1975, sharing a Gulf Mirage GR8 with Jackie Ickx and winning from a Ligier by one lap. The pair took a Porsche 935 to victory in 1981and then their first win under Group C rules was in a 956, heading home a factory one-two-three for the 956 on its Le Mans debut.

Further wins in 1986 and 1987 in the revised 962C – developed from the 956 and featuring safety items required to race in the IMSA series in the USA – with Hans Stuck and Al Holbert. Bell’s last outing for the Porsche factory was in a 1988 in a Shell liveried 962C shared with Stuck and Klaus Ludwig – the latter running out of fuel early in the race and bringing the car back on its starter motor, the trio recovering to second by the end of the race.

Sixteen World Endurance Championship wins and the driver’s title in 1985 and 1986 were backed up by success in the US, with 19 race wins in the IMSA series and winning the Daytona 24-Hours three times in 962s, the final win the Miller backed Busby Racing car he shared with John Andretti and Bob Wollek. That car was one of the 962s at the Festival of Porsche, Bell remembering it as a great car to drive, devoid of the power sapping fuel regulations of the WEC’s Group C rules.

Good enough to give us five minutes of his time at Brands Hatch – the Audio tab has our full interview with the famous racer.

One famous car that was at Brands was Porsche 956 007, the car that Bell’s team-mate Stefan Bellof took round the Nurburgring in 6m11.13s in 1963, still the fastest ever lap of that circuit, IN the race Bellof had worked his lap times down to the 6m20s when he went off – Bell never driving in the race. Click on the Video tab to see Bell once more lap the Nurburgring in the car.

View our Gallery of images from the Festival of Porsche.