A former Formula One driver from England who raced for the Ferrari, McLaren, Surtees and Tecno. Bell is best know for his sportscar racing, winning Le Mans five times and the Daytona 24 hour race, three times.
Derek Bell was born in Pinner, Middlesex just north of London, and grew up on a farm and helped to run a caravan site near Pagham Harbour in Sussex before taking up racing in 1964 with a Lotus Seven. He graduated to Formula 3 the following year with a Lotus 31 and in 1966 switched to a Lotus 41 in which he scored his first race win at Goodwood. He then enjoyed a very successful Formula 3 season in 1967 with seven wins.
In 1968 he graduated into Formula 2 with a private Brabham BT23C fielded by his stepfather Bernard Hender's Church Farm Racing team, putting in several promising performances which caught Ferrari's eye and he made his Grand Prix debut at Monza where he retired the 312.
In 1969 Bell raced in the Silverstone International Trophy for Ferrari then gave the one-off four-wheel-drive McLaren M9A its sole race outing in the British Grand Prix.
Bell was runner-up in the 1970 European Formula 2 Championship driving Tom Wheatcroft's Brabham BT30 and that year he raced a Surtees at Watkins Glen.
In 1971 he raced briefly in a Frank Williams March and also appeared in a Surtees before getting regular work in 1972 with the Tecno F1 team, although he shared the drive with Nanni Galli.
In 1974 he did a number of races with the Surtees team again but then spent some time in touring cars before building a reputation as a fine sportscar racer.
He won two World Sportscar titles, in 1986 and 1987, took five victories in the Le Mans 24 Hour race and three in the Daytona 24 Hour race. Driving mostly with Jacky Ickx in one of the Porsche 936 or Porsche 956/Porsche 962 models, the Ickx/Bell partnership is considered as one of the most successful pairings in sports car racing history.
Bell was awarded the MBE for services to motorsport in 1986 and was hired as a consultant by the Bentley team in 2001, helping them to win Le Mans two years later. He divides his time between the United States and the United Kingdom, does commentary on Formula One races in the America and drives in historic events, often as an ambassador for Porsche.
Justin Bell is his son and also a racer. The two raced together in the 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1992 and 1996.