Derek Reginald Bell MBE was born October 31, 1941, in Pinner, Middlesex England. As a former racing driver, he was extremely successful in sportscar racing, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times. He also raced in Formula 1 for the Ferrari, McLaren, Surtees and Tecno teams and has been described by fellow racer Hans-Joachim Stuck as one of the most liked drivers of his generation.
He grew up on a farm and helped run a caravan site near Pagham Harbour before being encouraged by his stepfather, Bernard Hender to take up racing in 1964 with Lotus Seven. The following year he graduated to Formula 3 with a Lotus 31 and in 1966 switched to a Lotus 41 scoring his first victory at Goodwood. In 1967, he enjoyed seven wins and entered Formula 2 in a privateer Brabham BT23C fielded by his stepfather's Church Farm Racing team. After several promising performances, he caught Ferrari's eye and made his Grand Prix debut at Monza. In 1969, he raced at Silverstone with Ferrari where he also raced the four-wheel-drive McLaren M9A in its only race in the British Grand Prix.
Bell was one of many drivers to take part in the filming of LE MANS (1971) starring Steve McQueen. Bell had a lucky escape during the making of the film. The Ferrari 512 he was driving suddenly caught fire whilst getting into position for a take. He managed to get out of the car just before it became engulfed in flames and suffered minor burns. The car was badly damaged, but later rebuilt.
He won two World Sportscar Championship titles in 1985-86, the 24 Hours of Daytona three times in 1986-87 and 1989 and Le Mans five times in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987, mostly teamed with Jacky Ickx first in one of the Porsche 936s and then in Porsche 956/962 models. Ickx/Bell is considered as one of the most famous pairings in not just Porsche, but motorsport history.
Bell was awarded the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1986 for services to motorsport.
Bell was hired to consult for the Bentley team in 2001, helping them to win Le Mans two years later. He now splits his time between the United States and Bognor Regis, and commentates on Formula 1 races and drives in historic events, as well as performing an ambassadorial role for Porsche. Bell is currently an operating partner of Bentley Naples in Naples, Florida.
His son, Justin Bell is also a racer. The two raced together in the 1991 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bell was to race in the 2008 Daytona 24 hours with Justin, however the car dropped out of the race early and Derek did not get to run in the race.
Bell was elected to the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2012.