Derek Bell: My Racing Life launched at the Quail

Date: 
20-August-2011

Derek's updated autobiography, My Racing Life, was launched to great acclaim at The Quail "A Motorsports Gathering" event on 19th August during the Monterey Auto Week. Published to mark the 70th birthday of one of Britain's best-loved racing drivers, Derek Bell: My Racing Life, published by Haynes, is a fully updated edition of this legendary competitor's autobiography, which recounts the highs and lows of a life-long love affair with motor-racing.

Told with the help of internationally respected motorsport journalist, Alan Henry, Derek's story charts a journey from club racing in a Lotus 7 at Goodwood, close to his family home on the Sussex coast, to international renown as one of the world's finest ever endurance sports car drivers. Derek famously achieved this status through multiple triumphs at Le Mans and the Daytona 24 Hours, during a distinguished and hugely varied racing career stretching over 40 eventful years.

His recollections of these many experiences are shared in Derek Bell: My Racing Life with a feast of motorsport nostalgia, illustrated with numerous photographs from his own personal collection. Having honed his burgeoning talent in the cut-and-thrust of international Formula 3 and Formula 2 during the 1960s, the book recounts how Bell was catapulted into the Ferrari Formula 1 team at the age of 26. In 1968 he made his Grand Prix debut in front of the car-crazy tifosi at Monza, but arrived at Maranello during one of its periodic downturns. Sadly, this meant his tenure in the works seat of the most famous name in motor racing was to be cut short after less than a year.

After a brief sojourn in Formula 2 racing, he bounced back to establish his world-renowned reputation as an endurance sports car driver throughout the 1970s and '80s with Porsche. It was during this period that he scored the five wins in the legendary Le Mans 24-hour classic and the three wins in the gruelling Daytona 24-hour race for which he is still celebrated today. His triumphs at Le Mans are particularly fondly remembered due to his all-conquering partnership with Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx. Bell/Ickx rightly remains one of the most revered pairings in the history of motorsport to date, and is also further examined in Derek Bell: My Racing Life.

The roll-call of his other driving partners reads like a who's who of international motor racing, with illustrious names such as Jo Siffert, Mike Hailwood, Stefan Bellof, Jochen Mass and Al Holbert all sharing long-distance race wins with one of the most amiable and popular characters in the paddock. It was with the German driver Hans Stuck that Bell achieved two World Sportscar Championships, in 1985 and 1986, at the height of global sportscar racing popularity. In addition to providing vividly-described tales of his many triumphs alongside these talented drivers, Bell uses the book to reveal the frustration of setbacks such as his short lived return to Formula 1 with the Tecno and Surtees teams in the early 1970s.

More poignantly, he goes on to reflect upon the deaths of close friends and colleagues - such as Jim Clark - which made racing such a raw and uncompromising affair in the early days of his career. He also recalls the immense joy he felt after sharing the third-placed McLaren at Le Mans in 1995 with his son, Justin, before finally updating readers on more recent exploits, including his participation in endurance racing in the USA - which he now calls home - throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

Enjoy a review of the book with Jay Leno filmed at the Quail.

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