He’s right, of course, If you think of Bell and Le Mans the image conjured up will always be that of the famous blue-and-white liveried cars from Stuttgart, which dominated so much of the infamous Group C era.
But Porsche isn’t the be-all and end-all of Derek Bell’s career. It’s often forgotten that not only did Bell win his first Le Mans in a Ford-powered Mirage GR8, but that his long-term association with Porsche only began in his tenth attempt at the world’s biggest endurance race.
In fact he took to the La Sarthe circuit for the first time in 1970, at the age of 28 in an iconic Ferrari 512 alongside Swedish F1 legend Ronnie Peterson.
Although they failed to finish it would be the start of an affair with the French circuit that would see Bell take part in 26 consecutive Grand Prix d’Endurance and clinch five victories, placing him third on the all-time wins list behind his great do-driver Jackie Ickx and ‘Mr Le Mans’ himself Tom Kristensen.
This year at the Festival of Speed we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Goodwood regular’s first victory at Le Mans with a class of cars that he had famously driven.
The video we share above, the first of a two-part documentary, follows Derek as he is reunited with the incredible orange machine which he first raced during the Spa 1000km in 1970. ‘That car meant a lot to me, because it was the first [sports] car I ever drove,’ he says. ‘I have a great fondness for her because people don’t relate me to that Ferrari.’
You’ll see some classic footage of that first race, in which the car would end up on fire, singeing Bell’s eyebrows. Although that first outing didn’t end as well as they hoped it did lead to that Ferrari factory drive at Le Mans and, eventually, his association with Porsche.
Part two, which will be released later this week, will see Bell step back into the cockpit again.