PART 1 -Derek is a literal living legend and a humble man who gives the time of day to anyone because well, they are a person like him!
0:20 there's a VHS tape here, that you may not be aware of, let's see if you're aware of it. A buddy of mine got it in the mid 80s. And it was called
in car 956. Yeah, I'm pretty much aware of it. Yeah. Okay.
Got it written down to her. Motor books International. That's right. Yeah. And, and he still has a VHS player. Yeah, only for that. Amazing. When we talk about that, it was the biggest seller ever of that time, for years. And
it during that during the time of Porsche, because we did it during that good year of 1983, or 84. And
ever, every, every event I go to, I would say, in the world, wherever I go, I will sign it. At least one copy of that even today. Even today, people come up
there in the other end DVDs now. I mean,
so when I, you know, I watched that. I mean, I couldn't know this friend of mine named Don, I couldn't. You can't be friends with him without watching it
more than once. And your first gear, second gear, you know, you're, you're talking during this whole thing. And I'm watching the tape. And I'm actually like, shitting myself a little bit.
Imagine I'm imagining being in the passenger seat. There were a few.
I couldn't even imagine. It was. Well, I did I never sat in the fastest seat either. So I guess so remember, I did the voiceover live except for the Nurburgring. Because I couldn't remember the names of the corners. Obviously, there's 170 corners. And they're all in German, when you get lost 160 970.
6:15 No, I'm purely. I'm a (dealer) partner. And in Bentley, Naples, Bentley, and which is fantastic. And we have Porsche, Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Rolls Royce
9:08 Italian Grand Prix in 19 1959
15:00 Derek talks about his fortune and gratitude.
18:33 And he (Jim Russell) sort of picked one day just picked me out and said, who was driving that car and I went, "Oh, Lord, he's gonna give me a shout at me". And so he said, you know, and he took me to pull me out away from the other eight, all the other drivers. So they were still listening, though right beside us, and you think you're gonna get removed or something? I thought it was gonna get a bullocking or something.
22:05 I was out winning races all over Europe in my
third year. And that was at Ferrari my fourth.
23:08 there were a lot of people getting killed back then. Oh, yeah. 30% of the drivers died. Yeah. Did you think ever think about those statistics or, or not when you were there? Every night? Yeah. Oh, every night, the night before the race? Oh, yeah. I mean, you didn't know you didn't know whether you would make it back after the weekend. It sounds stupid. Because I'm not one of those sort of be. I'm not a daredevil. I'm not a guy that climb a tree or leap off of top board at the swimming pool. Oh, let somebody else do it first and see if it was safe before I did it. maybe that's why I became a good endurance driver because I calculated more.
27:54 Why can't he drive a stick shift?
31:14 I talk to everybody, not anybody. I mean, I talk to everybody if I can, if I can, if I got time, or they got time, or they want to.
36:11 Festival of Speed. Also. Yeah, I've done it every year. Yeah, man. I'm doing it this year. The Duke ...he wrote to me the other day and we have a speak on the phone every month or so. He's a good friend of mine. He lives at Goodwill. I live near it.
36:08 69 was the last year they ran. It was the year that Jackie walked across the track, got in his car last and won the race ...on the last lap.
39:03 (about races) "I certainly don't sit and watch it."
40:36 you should go to the US Open, you should go to Wimbledon, you should go to all the one off special events, because you don't have to like it. You just have to suck up that atmosphere. And LeMans certainly has something terribly unique about it.
42:30 Derek talks about setting the world speed record in a Bentley on a frozen lake between Sweden and Finland. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzhE8w8oC-Y
Derek Bell 1.1 FULL v3
Sun, 2/14 12:23AM • 51:07
driving, car, racing, people, bentley, day, ferrari, miles, years, called, race, met, race car, corners, sat, run, porsche, world, racetrack, ice
Jeff Sterns 00:02
Jeff Sterns connected through cars, if they're bigwigs, we'll have him on the show. And yes,
we'll talk about cars and everything else. Here he is now, Jeff Sterns,
Jeff Sterns 00:20
there's a VHS tape here, that you may not be aware of, let's see if you're aware of it. A buddy of mine got it in the mid 80s. And it was called in car 956.
Yeah, I'm pretty much aware of it. Yeah. Okay.
Jeff Sterns 00:43
Got it written down to her. Motor books International. That's right. Yeah. And, and he still has a VHS player. Yeah, only for that.
Jeff Sterns 00:57
When we talk about that,
it was the biggest seller ever of that time, for years. And it during that during the time of Porsche, because we did it during that good year of 1983, or 84. And ever, every, every event I go to, I would say, in the world, wherever I go, I will sign it. At least one copy of that even today.
Jeff Sterns 01:23
Even today, people come up
there in the other end DVDs now.
Jeff Sterns 01:28
I mean, so when I, you know, I watched that. I mean, I couldn't know this friend of mine named Don, I couldn't. You can't be friends with him without watching it more than once. And your first gear, second gear, you know, you're, you're talking during this whole thing. And I'm watching the tape. And I'm actually like, shitting myself
a little bit.
Jeff Sterns 01:55
Imagine I'm imagining being in the passenger seat.
There were a few.
Jeff Sterns 02:02
I couldn't even imagine. It was. Well, I
did I never sat in the fastest seat either. So I guess so remember,
Jeff Sterns 02:09
I did the voiceover live except for the Nurburgring. Because I couldn't remember the names of the corners. Obviously, there's 170 corners. And they're all in German, when you get lost 160 970. So right. So I did that afterwards. But the other track side talks during my lap, the young man that I sent you that sitting in that black, I think it's a Ferrari 360 spider, he must have been, I don't know, 12 years old or something. And now for about five years he he did all the video for NASCAR and for Michelin. And he said that he worked directly for Justin, your son.
Justin, I haven't we've talked we talked every day. But quite frankly, we're always so busy about the business stuff that we've been talking about and what's going on in the world that we don't get around some pleasantries like pictures and stuff like that, if you know me in a week or so, I think so. I will certainly show
Jeff Sterns 03:10
him that. But I haven't forgotten. I'm talking to Derek bell. Five time, Lamont 24, winner three time Rolex, you're probably tired.
I never want it when it's Rolex. That's why I haven't got a Rolex. Okay, I bought it when it was a damn son bank. And all you got was a postcard from chairman of some bank. But anyway, don't worry, Rolex started the year after
Jeff Sterns 03:35
they saw that. So we just call it the Rolex, I guess, because it sounds better than
done bank, there isn't such a thing as some bank anymore. You know,
Jeff Sterns 03:44
they didn't even give you like the toaster for opening a savings account or something.
No, that's what it was like.
Jeff Sterns 03:51
Okay, so, you know, your resume speaks for itself. Yeah. And but I didn't want this converse in this. I don't want this to be an interview. And I didn't I didn't want this conversation to be like, and I've watched so many, I mean, the recent one you did with Porsche and and I mean, I've watched so many about you. But the reason that I contacted you originally, it might be the same for you, when you're at social gatherings when you're at a dinner. People want to hear your stories. Selling Cars may not be as interesting as racing. Although I don't know what's more dangerous, Derek? Driving 250 miles an hour, or telling somebody what their trading is worth?
Jeff Sterns 04:36
I've had to duck a few times, telling people then offer on their trade. But what I want and of course, I mean, the stories are wonderful. But when I end up in I sold cars for 27 years, and now I'm a consultant to the car business for eight years. But at dinners or parties or gatherings. People start asking me of course about cars, which I know they asked you probably what was your favorite Or what do you drive? Now? Who knows? And by the way, I saw your birthday so I'm going to later maybe I'll try to guess what your real daily driver is in your garage. Is I'll ask is it Cadillac or Lincoln? No.
That's probably the last car it would be but carry on.
Jeff Sterns 05:19
And you don't have that was just a birthday stick so you don't drive you still don't drive but your turn signal on all the time. Okay, well, we will work I know there's people dying to know like what your real daily driver is not just the race cars. So it but it dinners or gatherings I get? What car do you like best? And often? Derek, for me it was it was exotic. It was often what I drove left last. If somebody would ask me back when Ferrari hit manual transmission? Do you like the f1? Better? Or do you like the manual? It's pretty much whichever one I just got out of? Yeah, for sure. And then they asked Who did you meet? And then they asked about crazy car business stories. I mean, you're involved with a car dealership? Yeah.
Jeff Sterns 06:08
And do you ever get involved with any of the day to day or any of the stories are more investment standpoint?
No, I'm purely. I'm a partner. And in Bentley, Naples, Bentley, and which is fantastic. And we have Porsche, Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Rolls Royce, and to the same as irati. You didn't say? And you know, it's a it's a great interest. So I mean, the only problem is, it's 100 miles a week. So I haven't been there in eight months, because of COVID. But generally, I'd go there every week. But I have nothing to do with physical running of it. But I like going over there. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the atmosphere and the buzz of car sales and beautiful cars.
Jeff Sterns 06:53
So you meet the customers? Oh, gosh, yes. So this is the this is the thing that made me want to call you and I was so grateful that you took my call initially. And I'm not offended that the only reason you showed up the first time is you thought I was the Porsche guy.
Okay, you go.
Jeff Sterns 07:14
It's okay. It's all. It's all real. But I was glad that he answered. But the thing about you and we met I, and our last call our I don't know if it was our practice call on zoom or just going over a few things that we had talked about where we met Las Vegas Speedway. I was there for Bentley meeting. I thought it was 99. Or Oh, for our knowledge. I you corrected me? I think it was a one.
Yeah, I didn't start with them till 201. Yeah. During 2002. I mean, I knew the event, the people in the boss, the marketing director was a close friend of mine, who's now that the CEO Benny, UK, so yeah, but it was actually I met him about to discuss it in September, October 2000.
Jeff Sterns 08:09
And this was when you went to the brand ambassador for Bentley in racing.
No, not really. To start with I was involved with the racing program, they had three projects, okay, on the finite development of the knowledge. The second thing was the development of a new Continental GT. And the third theme for the future was development of Lamar racecar. They have raced in lamotta since 1931, or two, and that it was 74 years later, or whatever it was coming back. And they want to be involved because of obviously my experience. So he raced at the mall 26 times 26 years. And also, I was the leading British driver as far as victories at the law. Right. albeit with messy messy with Porsche. And so for me, it was just wonderful at that stage in my life to get involved with the development of those three things to be honest, and the final development of the old car and that's how it started because we're an English entity involved with a British car manufacturer like Bentley, which I consider to be probably the greatest car manufacturer in the world historically has been there so long, but it was very special and seemed perfectly
Jeff Sterns 09:29
well Bentley boys and who I mean that's rich heritage.
It was fantastic. I never met who unfortunately but my matches nice. I think we had some some events together. So it's very nice to be part of the family.
Jeff Sterns 09:46
Oh my god, it must be now early. Let me back up to your childhood. Your your stepfather was he was the nickname The colonel.
That's right. Yes.
Jeff Sterns 10:00
And he supported you in this he supported you for, I think a few years before he had to go out on your own and racing. I mean, I know you did the Russell racing. So
Jim Russell driving school, obviously myself, my parents would have killed me if they'd known basically. And then I got started racing with a friend. And I did my first year in the Lotus seven with a very close friend called jump and fold. And we built and ran it and the whole project was our own, done on a shoestring as we say in England, and the end of the year, my, the guy that came along to help us at the latter part when my partner had crashed the car once pretty badly. So this chap appeared out of the woodwork and said, I i've been erasing Let me help you rebuild the car. And we rebuilt the car at the end started to enjoy time with us that year. And then he said to my stepfather, who always got the colonel always coming to the races for the latter part of that year he did anyway. And, you know, said you can't let Derek stop. Am I my racing partner went off to get married. And, you know, I thank goodness the john Upton is his It was his name, the mechanic. He went along, convinced my dad stepfather that I should, that he had to keep, you know, keep me going in that racing program. So that's our he then helped me no end for three years until I went to Ferrari. And, and then that was it really. But you know, nearly all of us need somebody to help us in the beginning, because it's becomes very expensive. When he gets into being competitive. I mean, you can start on a shoestring but when you if you want to go further, you need finance. And in those days, there was no sponsorship. Sponsorship didn't exist Reddit, basically. And he came in in 19 1977. I think it was something like that. But my stepfather came to, I mean, my family said, you know, really, my racing, thanks to his generosity and kindness. My racing gave him a reason to live in a way because, okay, don't get me wrong. You know, what a nice thing is say? Yeah, no, it was wonderful. He really loved the races. He loved the participation. We have the car, whatever it was, in the workshops at the farm, you converted a part of a barn into a workshop. And he loved it. I mean, he came in, I mean, no, he loved this. I mean, he actually took me to the Italian Grand Prix in 19 1959. He took the Italian Grand Prix, we drove down to Italy. And what little did I realized that 11 years, eight, sorry, that would not hold on. Anyway, 10 years later than I'd be sitting in a racecar and a Ferrari race car on the grid, where I'd been watching 10 years previously, and not even knowing I'd even start racing, because I wasn't racing. 10 years before I raced for Ferrari. So it was, it was like, it was an unbelievable time.
Jeff Sterns 13:05
Now, I was looking at your book my racing life. Yeah. And you talked about writing, forgive me if I'm wrong, but something like 100 letters, trying to get sponsorships?
Well, no, it wasn't 100. But it certainly certainly was a lot. Yeah, I mean, it was a lot. Yeah. I mean, it was already did cuz sponsorship started, as I said, incorrectly, and in 67. And I was applying, you know, at that time, not 77, but in 67, to see whether, you know, one could get sponsorship, because that, you know, it wasn't a matter of writing a letter. I mean, the major companies were interested in somebody like Lotus, or Ferrari would have, you know, had their agents out talking to the big agencies. And that's just me writing a letter. So I didn't get anything and I wasn't likely to to be honest.
Jeff Sterns 13:59
So backing up a little more. What was the catalyst? What got you to go to the original driving school? What had just sneak off and do that? Were friends doing it? Or?
No, I driven I driven on the farm. We lived on a farm all my life Still, we still live on it in England. But when was it? I can't get the year right. Maybe 61 or two. I was at college University studying agriculture. So I can do it properly. And, again, you know, you meet up with similar minded people. In some of them. We ended up with a group of three or four of us that loved car racing, we followed it intensively. Same thing happens. You know, when I was at school, the whole thing was we always meet up with guys that love racing. And I followed it for me and I drove tractors on jeeps and stuff on the farm from the age of nine. I mean, driving was second nature to me. And it was just one of those fortunate things. I mean, it's like, it's amazing that you can, you know, be, why should I be on a farm? And why should I then get to drive tractors and jeeps? And why should I? So I had the fortune to end up working end up racing to the top teams in the world, from those little beginnings of being a tractor driver on a phone. Possibly, if I've never driven that tractor. If I've never driven a Jeep that people would have, I would never have thought about it. Because I would have been living in the outskirts of London with mice with my real father and his wife then, and just live to sort of an older, less dramatic or less exciting life but it just happens all gel fall into place.
Jeff Sterns 15:42
But when you went with the to the very first time to the racing school, was it with buddies just for like an activity day and you didn't know that? It was your?
No, no, I mean, passionate. You have no idea that you're going to be any good, but don't service at school loans. guy called Mick boy doll and my son, I was at school now. I was like, 16 am I getting this? Right? Was it at siren system? I can't it was at school. Anyway, it was school. And then that led on to when I went to I mean pretty much immediately, but remember, I live near goodwill anyway. Yeah. And I was a martial I used to be a flag waver Goodwill's corner work as you call them in America. And, and I remember going I went to the driving school, I think the very first time with MC Boyd Ella haber that was from from college. And we went up two semesters and together, and which was goodness knows 150 miles away. And you went to a sort of a little course, you know, you walk the corners. And then eventually you sat in a race car and you went through the corners at 30 miles an hour. And, you know, one behind the other. I mean, it was ridiculous. Really. I mean, you could have gone round around a car park to be frank. I mean, you weren't allowed to go fast. And then you know, and it was, it was what it was, and I then I got into it. It costs five pounds of I recollect for the initial course. And then then it costs you he cost 10 pounds, a corner. And there were seven corners in those days that set it in Norfolk. So if you got the 180 miles from my home up to the driving school. And so I went once a month, you know, for an art for a day, which costs 10, maybe 30 pounds, but I was only earning 20 pounds a week.
Jeff Sterns 17:30
So you're consuming just about all your monthly salary.
Yeah, well, that's right. And I want to live as well and pay raise rents and run a car to get up to the track. But anyway, we all did it. I wasn't the only one. We all wanted to do it. And then one day, after about a year and a half, I'd been probably six times seven times over the period. By this time I was laughing obviously after the walk the corners for about a couple of weekends, you then suddenly to go round the circuit, fully Lincoln all the corners up at 4000 rows for 10 laps at four and a half, and so on until you got to seven or 8000. And I got as far as six and a half or seven. And one day with about eight cars going around. We were never close together, they would never stop so we can race or anything. And I know Jim Ross himself around the school he was down. But he came over and actually started I believe the first racing school in America called the Jim Russell school. And I think he was at Laguna Seca or 6.1 of those to six point. And Jim was a great guy. And he sort of picked one day just picked me out and said, who was driving that car and I went, Oh, Lord, he's gonna give me a shout at me. And so he said, you know, and he took me to pull me out away from the other eight, all the other drivers. So they were still listening, though right beside us, and you think you're gonna get removed or something? I thought it was gonna get a balakian for something. And then he in so he, he, he just went on about how what talents he taught. And he said, I guarantee within a year, you'll be in a factory team. But of course, in the meantime, I go and find the money to get a car to go out and show that I had that ability to show people he doesn't come because somebody writes a letter. Nowadays, of course, the driving schools invariably have a sponsor. And that sponsor sort of is looking for talent. And they sort of hide you off to a team that will look after you anyway. So go karting now, but there's no cards in there. So that was really how it sort of started. And Jim said I hadn't even finished a course. And he just said I can't do anything more for you. He said, you've got you've got a talent. So he said you go for it. And then there was an infinity party. He was there about two years after me or three years after me as well. And we're the only two that I'm aware of that really came out of that. That got anywhere isn't It's amazing. And the time I'd never have known it. I mean, it was beyond a dream came How come? I remember I and I drove home. In my car old car that I had mother's contact course it was I was running the farm. That wasn't a college. Now it's two years later and I drove back obsesses and walked in the lounge at my parents house. And the old man said my stepfather, as I say, he said to me, how'd you get on? And I told him, and he said, I tell you what he said. He said, you prove to me you've got the ability, and I'll help you. So that was what it was. And you know, I had to go and show him that I really want you to do it, which I think were the best words any father can tell you some sort of exams these days, people just say, Here's the money, some gun, blow it. And I'd like to go and get the money myself, which I did for nearly two years, with my with a pilot just happened to come out of the blue, but it didn't happen straightaway. Because I, I didn't, I didn't have the brains open evenly. I didn't even want to build a race car, all I want to do is get in a car and drive it, right. And the guy came along to some some farm machinery one day, we got talking and etc, etc, of similar age to me, john Penfold I mentioned earlier, and we got talking about what we should like to do. And we both had a common interest in racing. He was very good technically, and wanted to race as well. So and he put all the figures together what it was going to cost. And so for 600 pounds, we actually built our little Lotus seven. And I went out on March the 13th 1964, and a pissing rain and won the race. So we were, it was quite, we went off quite well. And then four years later,
Jeff Sterns 21:21
I'm at Ferrari. So so you're, you're excited to be like, Wow, what a thing to do for a living? Like, amazing.
living out of it was,
Jeff Sterns 21:29
but where have you been? I mean, you it's taking you some places in the world.
Yeah, I mean, it was Yes, I can see your your your emotion about this. But it was bloody hard work. Because there were a lot of kids doing the same thing as me. And Sam has lots more money, a lot more inputs and a lot more talent, probably and also with you know, they knew where they were going. And we hadn't had a clue. We were totally green. nobody else's. It was me and john, and then me and the old my stepfather and, and one mechanic. And we just sort of drifted along, but within the same, I was out winning races all over Europe in my third year. And that was at Ferrari my fourth. So I guess I made a bit of an impact while at the time I didn't think so. I thought I was okay, but I didn't think I was that good. Fortunately, because of the visibility of Formula One today, the Claire's proved her damn good he is. And he would have got a top drive anywhere. He went from Ferrari Mayday. I I proved that I was pretty good. I know. I didn't. I've never thought I was that outstanding at all. I never did. Really. I still feel I deserved a good drive. But of course, if you didn't sort of come if you didn't go to the right team, the right time, and there was very little publicity about Formula One then anytime. There was any news as of Sunday got killed, and there was a car on fire. Any time it showed it. So you know, it was it wasn't easy. It wasn't just a bed of roses just running along sort of making money. Oh, he's never made a bean select john fry. And then I didn't really make much anyway.
Jeff Sterns 23:08
And there were a lot of people getting killed back then.
Oh, yeah. 30% of the drivers died. Yeah.
Jeff Sterns 23:13
Did you think ever think about those statistics or, or not
when you were there? Every night? Yeah. Oh, every night, the night before the race? Oh, yeah. I mean, you didn't know you didn't know whether you would make it back after the weekend. It sounds stupid. Because I'm not one of those sort of be. I'm not a daredevil. I'm not a guy that climb a tree or leap off of top ball at the swimming pool. Oh, let somebody else do it first and see if it was safe for I did it. But I you know, maybe that's why I became a good insurance driver because I calculated more.
Jeff Sterns 23:45
Now, did you ever I mean, speaking of do things stupid jumping off a tree, whatever. Just as a human like a young guy. You can drive good. You're at a light. There's some guy revving his engine. Like Did you ever act like a young guy who can drive in the street?
I'm sure I did. Yeah, I never had a car that was capable of burning anybody off the line? Cuz I mean, I didn't have any money. So I couldn't buy one could I? Think about it. It was you know, I was lucky to have a car at all. Well,
Jeff Sterns 24:17
how about now?
Well, no, I don't do it. Now. I just said the boys rush rush off. And then I would take them about 100 yards up the road. In a car that doesn't really look very impressive. So you know, I you know, I'm not one of them. I mean, I like it. I like Roger exhausts, and I like your car to sound good. Can't stand electric cars for that reason and that sort of thing. I just love the sound of cars.
Jeff Sterns 24:42
Have you I'm sure you've driven an electric car. No, yeah.
I've never done that hypercar. But I'm doing electric. But they have
Jeff Sterns 24:50
no sound. I agree. No visceral experience, but the acceleration is pretty scary, isn't it?
Yeah. But how often Can you do that? You just leave rubber on the road and you got to have a ton of money to pay I mean, I sound very boring and and knocking it on the head, it's the way we have to go for our environment. It's not because of what it does is the fact the end product is that we're conserving the atmosphere. And I can understand why, but from a driving point of view is terribly impressive, very fast. But how many times can you do a standing starting to, you know, nought to 60, in two seconds, you get bloody whiplash, and you feel ill. So it's great to do, and it's a great marketing thing. But I noticed there's a couple of teams that pulled out of racing formula II now to go into other classes of racing, because they, they will prove that point, the manufacturers are proving that they can build electric cars, they're out there in the marketplace. So you know, you know, the all the all the manufacturer doing electric cars, and they've just become, you know, just state is just the way the state car driving is. And that's the state of the market. Well, it
Jeff Sterns 25:55
might Derrick it might get, you know, of course, it's got legs, it may, you know, the autonomous driving piece, the convenience of not putting gas in your car piece. You mentioned for the environment, and I don't know one way or the other, but I think the jury's out a little bit on the mission piece because of making batteries, making electricity, the disposal of batteries. I don't know.
Yeah, every word you're saying is totally correct. I mean, that's that's the thing, but I mean, somebody will overcome it. This Mr. Musk guy, whoever he is, I mean, he will somehow come up with batteries the size of have an iPhone, and you'll be able to run your car for for six weeks on it. Suddenly, it'll happen like that. But that's fine. That's what it's all about making stuff efficient. And I'm not saying it's the wrong way to go with. It's not the way I'm interested in going. But I have driven them. And I think they're very impressive and beautiful empty. Porsche taken. And it's it's a beautiful cup. But I there's nothing I love more than shifting gear. Because I love it. It's just that I grew up with it. I got a Ferrari Maranello, and I just go to that beautiful Ferrari six speed box. And I just love it.
Jeff Sterns 27:04
I mean, there's nothing like it in the world. That is a beautiful chrome and metal gated shifter in the 550. Yeah. Beautiful. And so as a grand touring type Ferrari
is spectacular, probably as good as the rebel was, but but you know, it's just that's because I'm of that era. That was how we all grew up. And I think it was feed to nearly 90% of guys that came, we wouldn't get to road users, because most road users don't want to shift gears we've no here. I don't know how long in America you've had, you know, auto automatic cars, but certainly, you know, much, much longer than we had back in Europe. I mean, and I mean, I'd said to a friend of mine the other day, oh, look, I said I want to go and get the genie out of the water. I said, are dry, would you drive my jeep up there with the trailer on the back? And I'll take the thing out there because it's kind of a problem. And he said, Why can't drive a stick shift? I've never had anybody and wondered what you most likely will friend of ours, his son. And I won't count how awful is that know how to stick? A stick? I mean, I mean, it's like not learning how to write because you use if you use an iPad or a typewriter.
Jeff Sterns 28:14
You know, I mean, it's I do I mean, you may laugh at because my 18 year old son laughs at me because I got my last car that I'm leasing is a Honda, but it is a stick. And I have a sticker on the back that says millennial anti theft device.
Yeah, it's a stick shift pattern. Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
Jeff Sterns 28:34
But I did get a little credibility with my son, who's an old old soul, because I was driving BMWs BMWs. And then, as you know, I had a new daughter a few months ago. Yeah. And so ended up getting another car for my wife, good baby girl. So I thought okay, I better lighten up this lease payment. So when I left BMW and went to Honda and my son thought I'd lost my soul. He actually I re earned his respect when he saw it was a stick and of course now everybody in the house wants to borrow it all the time. Nobody can drive. Nobody can drive these anymore.
Replace the transmission on my jeep after a relation of hours. And I think Sebastian my now 22 year old but I think he learned to stick shift on my on my jeep as well. I never gave them the chance on my other costs, but I had to replace the transmission on it because they were they didn't know how to use the clutch at the same time as push the gear lever through. But that's what I divide but you know, you went past your driving test like that.
Jeff Sterns 29:43
Well, I taught my sons how to drive manual My God in their early teens in a 1970 fiberglass body, a dune buggy Volkswagen. Yeah. Which couldn't be easier to learn on your own. Need to give it any gas if you let the clutch out just a little bit, no problem, but they were both driving it No problem. 1314 years old.
Jeff Sterns 30:08
So but you learn on a tractor, but I mean, you're holding up I don't you know, there's probably a lot of people going to be wondering how do you keep your hair so nice?
Very good is just a matter of money. Just have to keep implants and off you go. Okay,
Jeff Sterns 30:24
I thought you're gonna give us like the guacamole. egg yolk. But that's one thing about you. You always got the good hair.
Lucky. Yeah. So far.
Jeff Sterns 30:38
So a thing that I want to, you know, I don't know if you know this about yourself. I mean, you're a pretty humble guy. You are, I mean, your stone celebrity or is known as any, I mean, certainly more important, a lot of people than rock stars, etc. But anyone that I mentioned about you, that met you in the car business, and a lot of my old Bentley factory rep, rep, fellows are the race nuts that you autograph something? Everybody feels like they know you personally. So I mean, you couldn't know as many personally as think know, you personally.
Talk to her, I talk to everybody, not anybody. I mean, I talk to everybody if I can, if I can, if I got time, or they got time, or they want to, you know, it's nothing to do with being a well known racing driver, or whatever it is. You know, it's thanks to all these people that we become better known. I mean, it's our driving ability, or your acting ability, or your tennis ability or sport, whatever it is, as to how good you are. But yeah, I don't think that you should look at it, like the world owes you a living from it, I think you're just lucky to have that opportunity to become what you became. And, you know, try and share it with everybody else that's out there and make their life enjoyable, too, because there's a heck of a lot of fans that get a buzz out of just chatting to you about racing, or about the car. And people have a question in the back of their mind that they've had for years. And they just been dying to meet you. Because I've always wanted to ask you this question. And it's just lovely to see this enthusiasm from people.
Jeff Sterns 32:14
Well, you It seems like you live in appreciation.
Yeah, but there's no associate everybody social is your son, as I'm sure he does. And you know what? Some people don't some people take it for granted or expected on a plane. I don't know, I don't go around analyzing the world. All I know is what, you know what I did? Or what I did? Or should I say me? And if you met my boss, either of my boys, or my daughter, for example, that we're all the same. We just check. We chat to anybody. Sometimes it's a pain in the ass, actually. But we do. And my wife says, Why don't you want to talk to him for so long? Well, because he showed interest in what I you know, we've done over the years, and he's a racing fan, or he likes tennis. And I like tennis, you know, right. So I'll talk to anybody about anything not I mean, I don't get down the road looking for people to talk to. But you know, I enjoy
Jeff Sterns 33:06
but you give people the time of day you give them eye contact, you're present with them, you make them important for their moment or their hour or whatever. And that's something that no matter who I talked to about you whoever met you feels that way. And of course my association with Bentley I had a lot of people that
met you not incorrectly but you said I was Brenda Massa, I became brand ambassador, sort of 10 years into my time with Bentley, or eight years into it. I was with him from 2001 right through till about three years ago. And you know, you wouldn't become a brand ambassador, if you if you if you couldn't, if you put put two words together and be polite to people learn to be humble to people and be normal. When you meet when I meet, you know, people, the Royals, and I've met members of the royal family and that sort of thing. And, you know, you have to be polite, and, you know, respectful and an old bitch so whoever I meet, I try to be you know, as much as I can. It's not that easy always. Because there are times when you're not, you know, ready to you haven't actually got time and I feel so bad erases when CP. Yeah, particularly these days, because I'm just guess I'm better known now that I ever was, but not quite now. But in the last few years, I've known as well as Eva was sure. You know, you bet you're trying to get from one place to another within the racetrack, you know, sort of across the paddock. And people, you know, say please can I have an autograph and these young kids and you have to do it and I sometimes arrive late for appointments and stuff at the track not to get in a race car so much but to be there to sign books or something at a bookstore or whatever, because I've stopped because you know, these young kids that come up with sort of, you know, a dozen photographs you design actually are a pain in the backside because you really are trying to get from A to B and if you stop for more than 30 seconds People mill around. Sure doesn't have any bocce return. Don't worry when you're at the racetrack. And, you know, you sort of signing it. Oh, they're all building up again. And you can't say no, I'm not signing anyone offend somebody, but there's a certain point, but I warned them. I said, I've just got to go in a minute. I've got to go. I'll just do One for you and one for you. And that's it.
Jeff Sterns 35:20
I know you're being authentic, but you're giving them their time. Have you ever tried to disguise
there's no point. I'm not that vain. Well, no, no, I
Jeff Sterns 35:29
just meant like, if you really, really had to get from here to there in 10 minutes, and there was a crowd I didn't know bottom, mustache glasses and a hat.
No, I just I just get there. I just won't get there. And I've always managed it somehow. so upset somebody on the way.
Jeff Sterns 35:45
Now you still have a place back in England. And is that the original farm or you said you're on the farm
is the original.
Jeff Sterns 35:52
Okay, and is that Chichester?
That's right. Yeah. Nick, good with
Jeff Sterns 35:57
your good one. Okay, so I don't want to say a bad word to a Bentley guy. But when Bentley and rolls split, you know, that's where we would go for the rolls? Of course. And of course the factory and yeah, yeah. And then I know you did a lot of the Festival of Speed. Also.
Yeah, I've done it every Yeah. Yeah, man. I've just dumped it. I'm doing it this year. You got some major features. Lord mately. The juke is he is now he wrote to me the other day and we have a speech on the phone every month or so. He's a good friend of mine. He lives near Goodwood. And well obviously I live sorry. He lives at Goodwill. I live near it. Right. Oh, yeah, we chat a lot. So I've got the festival speed in the middle of I think is early July and the members meeting in April and all that other stuff back in England. So yeah.
Jeff Sterns 36:47
That is so interesting. Now when you went to with Bentley is the brand ambassador and you're in you were involved with the racing? Yes. I remember going dilemma I was one of the few dealers invited and in the hospitality tent, it was so amazing. The food and the slot car racing going on inside there. Now, to a guy like me with a short attention span the food and the slot car racing was fun. Once I got outside, I'm sitting next to a guy that had been tailgating for three days. And I don't think he'd eaten a bite. But I'm pretty sure he'd been drinking non stop the whole time. talking to me about it. He's very excited about the whole thing. And of course, what's more exciting than the start of a llama race when everyone runs in their car. And they used to
is my very first level was 1970 foot Ferrari and we actually sat in the car with because we had to wear seatbelts. Actually, when we sat in the cars initial on the startline engines weren't start, you know, but you'd have to have it in first gear and the flag would drop and as it dropped, you could turn the key and obviously let out the clutch and off you in the year before was the Last year which would have been that was T and so 69 was the last year they ran. It was the year that Jackie x walked across the train, got in his car last and won the track race on the last lap. It was amazing. One of the most dramatic finish ever since that respect. And and so that was the last year 69 Yeah, so you never saw that because you're not old enough.
Jeff Sterns 38:25
But I do know that when my car that I'm interested in, of course, Bentley, then the three cars would come around it was every foreign change minutes, what four and a half minutes or something five
minutes. Yeah, that's right.
Jeff Sterns 38:37
So that I have to admit after about the first hour, and thank God for the drunk tailgater next to me or camper, entertaining me. I kind of had enough and I have to admit that I went and toured the city. Yeah. And then I came back for the last couple hours and
the best way to do
so that doesn't upset you.
Know, I certainly don't sit and watch it. Okay, so you can't watch too long. And watch. But I mean, I've done it, as I said, with all due respect 26 times. And, you know, I sort of I know, Lamar, I mean, I love it, but it's the atmosphere. And you know, I go and I'll go there during the qualifying what I mean as of now. I mean, I'm the Grand Marshal next year, I was this year, but they didn't they actually brought a Frenchman in to do it. But I said I'm not flying over, you know, during COVID. me now understood totally. So supposedly underground martial next year, which is a great honor. But I mean, you know, I'll be there for the start. I'll watch the first couple of hours and then you know, you walk around and see people and the dramas basically got a little bit less. And then you go back to the hotel for dinner and then you go to bed. And you'll get up, maybe you might go back to the track and watch some cars in the middle of the night. I did that with Sebastian a couple of times, and then drag him out a bit now to go and do it. But anyway, and and then you go back to the track here for the last four hours of the race. Unless you have other reasons to go. I mean, I don't get paid to go. And not that I would have to but I don't. What can you do you? I mean, it's you can't sit there and watch it people do. And I think it's wonderful. Because it's such a, you know, it's on people's, you know, list, I just have to do that, once in my life is go to them. And in a way you should you should go to the US Open, you should go to Wimbledon, you should go to all the one off special events, because you don't have to like it. You just have to suck up that atmosphere. And Lamar certainly has something terribly unique about it.
Jeff Sterns 40:49
Well, that makes me feel a lot less guilty. That's for sure if you left it Okay, that I left.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I mean, particularly when, you know, I mean, they might have, I mean, they had to get two and a half to three and 300,000 people there for the races. And they're all over in their tents, and they're cramping their days with why they have that same thing at daytona before the 500 and even our 24 hour is right, you know, the build up in the hole. That is the atmosphere, you can smell the burning rubber and you know, the beautiful women and things
Jeff Sterns 41:28
with Bentley, when you went became brand ambassador, it took you a lot of places to and I know when you were racing, you've been a lot of places. So it's not like you weren't well traveled or worldly but like Pebble Beach and I don't know how to pronounce exactly villa. What is it?
Jeff Sterns 41:46
Yeah, does that. Is there any place that sticks out when you're with Bentley
from my times that? I think one of the most exciting times there were there were many because Bentley always do things first class, and they do it brilliantly. And with color and with class. Nobody does some amazing events. But I think the one that I probably enjoyed. I mean you I you know, I was testing in the Kalahari desert with the new GT and I did some of the latter. I wouldn't say the finite testing, but I did bring me in to drive those models. Just to sort of sort of put my little bit of input in at the end of the day. Yeah, it's really a long drive, or why don't we change something? But no, I think that the most exciting was we went and broke the world, or set a world I speed record. And at that time, I'm talking about money at 910 years ago. And we went to Finland. Okay. We went to where they're cut out on a sea, the sea of Gaza bothnia it's called I think it's between Finland and Sweden. I feel that Yeah, Finland and Sweden. And the sea is actually frozen over and we went in, I think it was late January. And it was frozen over and they actually dug the groove out of the snow for 1616 kilometers 10 miles okay to make it like a racetrack but dead straight, but he wasn't quite straight. I think a bloke have been on some snaps to any build it when he cut it, and it wasn't smooth. It wasn't like a like an ice rink or you know, I mean, this thing was rough. Right. And at that time you like kankkunen, who was for time will rally chap in the magnificent finished racetrack rally driver. And a great friend of mine now. And he was part of our the team that got involved with that. And he had done it before with Bentley and they've done it before for years running the all the race driving schools they do over there on the ice and do it sort of celebrities and the wealthy owners or owners of the fabulous car with the Porsche or Ferrari or, or whatever manufacturer within reason. And we went over there and I remember your heart I you are actually got that got the record after we went back twice to do it. And we went and it was I mean, just the sun and the filming of it gets on YouTube. And it's called ice Bentley ice record. It's a 10 mile stretch. But that is the mile in the middle that matters and is what speed you you to carry through the mile go to the end, you've got to slow down, it's different can't use the brakes, you got to stop.
You basically have your 10 miles you have four miles of acceleration, one mile to in the middle and then four miles of slow down. And the tournament that goes by very quickly Oh my God. And anyway, so you have to do that and then you have to turn around and then within a certain time for a world record. You have to come back and do it the other way to both directions. And it was incredible building like building that car up to do it. It was a car accident. driven up the hill at Goodwood at one of the events and it had been bright green or bright yellow. It was a convertible. And they could they they couldn't put the frame they roll over frame inside the actual coupe the two door regular car because it would be the head would have been down way of chest was there for safety reasons. So they use the convertible. So they rolled the roof back, put the roll cage inside, right and then put a solid roof actually in the top in case you flipped it. But he came and he looked like a convertible. But it was a convertible roof basically. But you know, put something inside and then zip it up. And seeing you hard come down there. I mean, it's just incredible to watch. And the sound of this car going across the ice. I mean, but and the staggering thing was, is that we were driving on winter tires. We weren't even driving on studied tires. Nobody went, Oh, that must have been amazing. What was it like on stunts? On study times it was actually slower. And it was frat, you know, a few miles an hour slow because it stands actually crypts into the ice too much. Okay, so we use the websites that you're using Clearwater or you're using Boca on a very wet day. But they weren't called winter tires, but they weren't special snow tires. They were just better. And then I and then right at the end of it, they said kinda you've got to drive this, you've got to go to CES. So I said the car is idiot Norwegian journalist said, Can I come with you? And I went really? I've never done this before. Why do you want to come with me, you know, go in depth with a zoning. So we just did one run out and I did through the mile in the middle. I did 165. And you know, I mean, obviously I could, if I'd done it again, I would have gone quicker if I had that. But you have no control. Really. I mean, I guess I was just guiding it very lightly. And of course to start with, it's quite difficult to get used to the traction. And if you can't get grip, you're on rubber tires on solid eyes, four wheel drive, admittedly. And it was amazing experience. It was absolutely amazing. And yet, when we slowed down, they came back to the middle area in the middle where the mile was where the speed trap was. When I cruise back from my job, I just did one run. And that was really enough for that turnaround came back as I came down. So it'll go through this entrance to get to where we were on the ice of the truck and some bits and pieces and mechanics. Literally, as I came up doing 40 miles an hour, I put my foot on the brake and went straight past the influence. And just showed you that I mean, thank God, we never tried to use the brakes, you just slowed it down with the engine. And the gears anyway, that was it. But that was the most exciting study. So quite dramatic time is something I've never done. Like, you know, going up and jumping out of an airplane with the Bing jumpers and jumping over the parachute. the sort of things that you wouldn't do twice. But
Jeff Sterns 47:53
you know, as the for you is a driving experience that was actually fun. Interesting. Or maybe a tad nerve racking.
Yeah, I mean, yes. I mean, it's like, come on you if they told me the night before I would go What You must be joking. But the car felt remarkably stable, but I wasn't about to take the corner. It was quite, it was not jumping about a bit. So I mean, I didn't have an encounter camera, I don't think but with you. Hmm. I mean, there was a stage when you had was going there was a psych, the road itself would become, you know, higher, concave and convex, whichever you want. But it would curve in the middle because the weight of the snow and ice on the side would put with drag the road down at the edges. So they had some issues when it first bit when they first cut it, it was dead flat. And then as days went by regret gradually used some lose some of the weight of the extra ice on the side were pushed down. And I remember there was a very, very, very slight kink that you know, over 10 miles, you couldn't really see it, but it was there. And you went through it. You just have to keep the car to the right just a little bit. And you have went through we have it on film, okay. And through there on one of his runs. And remember, he lived on it. So he's done it basically all his life just at different speeds. But he was doing over 200 miles an hour. And literally the car kicks on to oversteer. And for 15 seconds, he had it on opposite lot like that. He held it for 15 seconds and brought it back and you know, in 15 seconds at 200 miles an hour you travel a kilometer, which is big quarters of a mile or more. I mean, unbelievable. under control was unbelievable. But that's his life. You know?
Jeff Sterns 49:42
What for you to be impressed. that's saying something.
Jeff Sterns 49:47
Well, what about executives? Now I know that movies aren't always like real life. And I know everyone's asked you about Ford versus Ferrari. But when I watched that movie, and I see the politics in it, and whatever Have you ever had to deal with it? You don't have to name brands or anything? And maybe you never dealt with it. But have you ever dealt with of noxious exotic executives that kind of ran counter to what you were trying to get done? Or is that just drama for movies?
No, no, no, I never. We never had that. I mean, it was certainly that I knew about it. Somebody even asked me yesterday, was it really like that? And I know there were cases of it. Because there were these major companies. And the thing is, it's the shot window of a manufacturer or the sponsor, so they want the most out of they can get in it. They don't like if they tell you why. And you have to Tow the line. And I never had that. Thank goodness, I just drove, I guess. I mean, I drove some wonderful teams, but never had that sort of politics. If there was I never knew.
Jeff Sterns 50:47
Okay, well, that's interesting. That's interesting to know. I was really hoping that would be the best story of the night but you know, what are we going to do? 10 depart one, make sure to listen to part two.
This has been Jeff Sterns connected through cars
Racing driver, movie maker, author, Bentley brand ambassador, Porsche and Ferrari racing, Goodwood, LeMans, Father, Family man
Derek Bell MBE has enjoyed one of the most successful, diverse and wide-ranging racing careers of any British racing drivers which spans over 40 years.
Bell is best-known as the consummate endurance sports car driver who won the Le Mans 24 Hours five times, the Daytona 24 Hours three times and the World Sports Car Champion twice! He is considered to be the greatest British racing driver ever to compete in endurance racing.
His sports car racing career spans the Ferrari 512 and Porsche 917, the Gulf-Mirage era, Renault’s turbo effort at Le Mans, the Porsche 936, Porsche 956 and 962, the Kremer Porsche K8, the Ferrari 333 SP, and the McLaren F1. The latter earned him yet another Le Mans podium alongside his son Justin Bell in 1995 – a very proud moment for the father and son.
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