An hour with Derek Bell at the Top Gear Festival in Johannesburg is one of the most rewarding experiences for any petrol head. We were there courtesy of Clare Vale Racing.
Derek Bell was quoted as saying: “The Porsche 917 was quite simply the fastest and most spectacular machine I have ever driven. It was the consummate racer of the period, which I drove to victory at the Buenos Aires and Paris 100km races. It moved about a bit on the circuit and the front end lifted out of corners but it was exhilarating to drive. Testing for the 1971 Le Mans, Singer asked me what revs I was pulling in the 917 down the Mulsanne Straight. I told him 8100rpm, which he said was a good thing because the engine would blow up at 8200rpm! That equated to 246 mph and we have never been quicker since.”
This particular car belongs to Clare Vale who entrusted her replica 917 to Derek Bell for the Festival.
We sat with Derek while he reminisced about the Le Mans races he took part in. His passion for the 24 hour race obvious to all, he recalled events in such detail from the 1980’s when he won the epic event. His audience captivated by the stories about racing and the making of the movie Le Mans with Steve McQueen.
Derek is one of those men who have time for the fans, signing autographs and chatting to anyone who approached him. A true gentleman and a real pleasure to spend time with.
Derek Bell and Stirling Moss sandwiching a young lass.
Derek Bell and Clare Vale.
If you ever get the opportunity to listen to Derek talk about his racing career grab it with both hands, you will not regret it.
We found this gem on Youtube: