Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell MBE was the featured guest as JD Classics welcomed more than 500 guests to another of its breakfast mornings last weekend. The greatest British endurance racer of all time — who in addition to his Le Mans victories has three wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and a single success in the 1000 Kilometers of Nürburgring — gave an insightful talk at JD Classics’ Maldon Headquarters.
Asked by host Simon Taylor what made a good endurance racer, Bell replied: “You have to have good hands; you need quite a gentle touch on the wheel so you can actually feel what the car is doing, and you can’t do that if you’re gripping the steering wheel like it’s your last drive.”
Although he teamed with many drivers throughout his career, Bell spoke fondly of perhaps his most famous driving partner, Jacky Ickx. “We always got on extremely well, and he’s a bloody star. He’s very quiet, but respected by absolutely everyone.”
Speaking about another of his driving partners, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Bell said: “He’s completely different (to Ickx)! He was bloody quick, but he used to crash a lot and he was never sure why! Years later, he said, ‘Do you know why I was with you racing? Because they (the team leaders) thought you might calm me down and turn me into a proper racing driver.’”
From a career full of highlights, Bell picked a 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours race with his son Justin in a Harrods-sponsored McLaren F1 GTR for special mention. “We were actually leading the race for 12 hours, in what was essentially a road car, despite it being the wettest Le Mans 24 Hours ever. But right near the end we had trouble getting the car into gear so we finished 3rd. Still it’s very special being up on the podium with your son, especially on Fathers Day.”
More dates and details of JD Classics breakfast mornings, including the guest speakers, will be announced in the New Year.