Two Le Mans legends were getting to know each other out on the circuit today – Derek Bell and Jaguar D-type.
Despite their connections with La Sarthe, the five-times Le Mans champ and the three-times victorious Jaguar haven’t had much to do with each other in the past. When Derek takes his place in the Flag Blue ex-Ecurie Ecosse car in the Lavant Cup – the D-type-only race to mark the car’s 60th birthday on the Saturday of Revival in a just over a week’s time – he will be very much the D-type new boy.
‘I have driven E-types in the TT at Revival but never before a D-type,’ he told us during the lunchbreak. ‘It’s a car I am really not associated with. But then I am not that associated with historic racing – it’s just that I am historic.
‘The only other D-type I have driven was Nigel Webb’s car about eight years ago. That car had a lot of understeer and I didn’t like it much, but this one is very neutral.’
It’s proving something of a steep D-type learning curve for Derek – he was one of the judges who this week voted the ex-Hawthorn D-type, OKV 1, the concours champion at Salon Privé.
‘The D-type is a fabulous car. I have been driving all sorts of interesting older cars recently, on rallies and so on, and it’s really nice to drive a car that does what you want it to do. It’s a lovely car that deserves all the accolades.’
Would you like to have raced it in period at Le Mans? ‘Yes I think so. We are not going so fast here against Le Mans, but it’s still very quick, pulling 5700rpm in top down Lavant (about 140mph – ed). It feels stable despite the fact that it doesn’t have the fin that was put on to make the D-type more stable down the Mulsanne Straight.’
Derek’s car, owned by Adam Lindemann and looked after for him by CKL Developments, is actually a bit of a rarity in having only the headrest. Many short-nose Ds went back to Jaguar in period to have the fin put on, just like the long-nose Le Mans cars of 1955.
This car is not a Le Mans car but as a former Ecurie Ecosse team car has what CKL’s Ben Shuckburgh describes as a ‘good solid racing history’. This car was the sergeant of the Ecurie Ecosse team – hence the three stripes on its nose. Fewer stripes meant other ranks, all so that the pit crew could tell which of the three blue cars they fielded was heading towards them down the pit lane.
With so many D-types at Revival this year, some similar method of recognition might not go amiss…
‘I have only done a few laps so far and am still getting used to the car,’ added Derek. ‘I am not going to take any chances – there are no prizes for going off trying to get the lap record. But I will get down to it come race day…’