New Zealand Classic Car - - Automobilia -

Derek Bell and Richard He­sel­tine Pub­lished 2018 by Porter Press In­ter­na­tional, which sup­plied the re­view copy ISBN 978-1-907085-65-9 Re­view by Mark Hol­man


en­thu­si­asts of a cer­tain age may have seen Derek Bell rac­ing a Fer­rari and a Brab­ham in the Tas­man Series days. Bell’s For­mula 1 ca­reer never took off, for var­i­ous rea­sons, but he was a stel­lar per­former for many years in sports car / en­durance rac­ing, and most of his suc­cesses came in Porsches.

This beau­ti­fully pro­duced book from Porter Press is based on the neat idea of hav­ing the man him­self de­scribe ev­ery Porsche race he ran in — that is, be­tween 1971, when he raced in the mighty 917, and 2001, when he took part in the 24 Hours of Day­tona on board a 911 GT3. In­ci­den­tally, Bell ranks Day­tona as a more dif­fi­cult day-and-night race than Le Mans.

Along the way, Bell and co-au­thor He­sel­tine cover a to­tal of 200 events all around the world, in­clud­ing the Sandown Park race in 1984 that I was lucky enough to at­tend: there’s a won­der­ful photo of Bell driv­ing his 956 along a Mel­bourne street to the cir­cuit! Speak­ing of il­lus­tra­tions, the book con­tains hun­dreds of su­perb pho­tos, although I would have liked to see a few more that de­picted some of the com­pet­ing mar­ques along­side his Porsches.

For much of the time, Bell was a Porsche works driver; his team­mates in­cluded Jo Sif­fert, Jacky Ickx, and Hans Stuck Jr. Bell makes the point that guys such as Sif­fert tended to hog the prac­tice pe­ri­ods, so he some­times went into races hav­ing had lit­tle track time! I hadn’t re­al­ized how often he raced in the US, though, for a range of teams. It’s clear that he en­joyed many of the tracks there, such as Road Amer­ica.

It cer­tainly wasn’t all easy street, though. Some of Bell’s race com­ments are along the lines of ‘I should have stayed at home’. Sadly, he also lost friends, such as Ste­fan Bellof, in those far-more-dan­ger­ous days. Cir­cuits such as Spa were lack­ing chi­canes and many safety fea­tures, so could be very daunt­ing in the fast Group C rac­ers.

Porsche’s sup­port var­ied some­what, too. Bell speaks of his frus­tra­tion with the fac­tory’s pol­icy of car­ry­ing out de­vel­op­ment work such as the PDK trans­mis­sions on the works cars, and of the abrupt de­ci­sion in the mid 1980s to stop fac­tory sup­port for en­durance rac­ing. That had the re­sult of vary­ing Bell’s Porsche ex­pe­ri­ences — and there­fore the cars pic­tured — be­cause he drove for many other teams dur­ing the lengthy ca­reer of the 956 and 962 mod­els. All of those races are in­cluded, along with Bell’s com­ments on team­mates — he won more races with Al Hol­bert that any­one else — and team man­age­ment, as well as the frus­tra­tions of the cars be­ing grad­u­ally over­taken by com­peti­tors such as Jaguar and Nis­san.

It’s very ap­par­ent that Bell views his Porsche ex­pe­ri­ences with con­sid­er­able af­fec­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion; af­ter all, he won 39 races with the mar­que, and had the chance of do­ing a small num­ber of his later races with his son Justin.

With 276 large pages in land­scape for­mat, this is a su­perb book that is full of fas­ci­nat­ing and hon­est in­sights from the man him­self. If you want to treat your­self, or­der a copy di­rect from the pub­lish­ers at £45 plus de­liv­ery and you will get one signed by Derek Bell. (Please tell them New Zealand Clas­sic Car sent you!)

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