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Motorsport legend Derek Bell MBE is considered one of the most successful British racing drivers, having won the prestigious Le Mans race five times, the Daytona 24 three times and the World Sportscar Championship twice. He is also a Bentley brand ambassador. Here, he shares his most inspiring drives off the race track with motoring journalist Jason Barlow.
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I took part in a rally through the Appalachian Mountains. We were staying in Eureka, a weird old town, but the roads were absolutely amazing – very fast and carving through glorious scenery where no one else really goes. The reason I liked it so much is because it was such a surprise. It’s not easy to find US roads where one can still drive with such spirit. True freedom.
Car of choice: Ferrari 430 Spider
Photo: Getty Images
The road from Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium to Eupen and Aachen, and onto the Nürburgring in Germany, is etched in my mind. It’s not super fast, but it’s all cross-country, atmospheric, and takes you through lots of sleepy little German villages. This journey and route stays with me because I was there to compete in a race, so my natural enthusiasm would have been topped up with elation at having survived another one…
Car of choice: Porsche 911
I competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours race 26 times. Bar one occasion I always drove to Le Mans, and still do now. Driving through a beautiful country, sampling the cuisine – it was all part of the experience. It’s a very demanding race. The start was usually hot and pressured, so I was happy for [celebrated 1970s Porsche team mate] Jacky Ickx to start. Then I would be the mug who did the final stint because he liked to get his hair looking nice for the finish.
Car of choice: Porsche 956
My daughter Melanie lives near Grasse in the South of France so I often drive there. I’ve used a Bentley Continental GT to do it, and it’s interesting to see how much more efficient the car has become. That fascination is probably a hangover from the days of keeping a close eye on the fuel gauge in all my races! I love those epic trans-European drives – the 1950s and 1960s idea of the gran turismo is in rude health as far as I’m concerned.
Car of choice: Bentley Continental GT
When I raced for Ferrari in Formula One, I had a 275 GTB/4, and I’d drive as far as Dijon, pick up the mountain roads past Annecy (pictured) towards Mont Blanc, then down the other side and on to Modena. I now have a Ferrari 550 Maranello. One of these days, I’m going to take that car and my son Sebastian and drive to Modena and Maranello. It’s an important pilgrimage.
Car of choice: Ferrari 275 GTB/4
Photo: Getty Images