Derek Bell is Britain’s most successful endurance racer, with five wins at the Le Mans
24-Hour, three at the 24-Hours of Daytona and two World Sportscar titles, in 1985 and
1986. But his most vivid memory of racing on home soil came in his very first ever car race
Event: Goodwood Members Meeting
Date: 1964
Car: Lotus Seven
The most memorable moment of my career was
finishing third at Le Mans with my son, Justin, in
1995, but as far as racing in the UK goes, it was
my first race – because I won it.
I went to the Jim Russell School at Snetterton and came out
with flying colours. He told me: “You’ve got all the attributes
to make a good driver and I can’t do any more for you,
I guarantee within a year you’ll be in a factory team.” I was
stunned and when I came and told my stepfather, he put his
newspaper down and said, “you prove to me you’ve got the
ability to get there and I will help you.”
He loved racing himself and I’d been to Monaco and Monza
for the Grands Prix as a 16-year-old, so it was all pretty
special. I was earning 20 quid a week as a farm manager and

one day a guy called John Penfold came there to sell some
farm machinery. We quickly became friends and said let’s go
racing together and we have been lifelong friends ever since.
He was very technically savvy and financially together and
we ended up putting together a Lotus Seven from an old
chassis and a Cortina 1500 engine for 600 quid. We finished
it on the night of 12th March 1964, and it was pickling down
with rain. John said ‘you’re going to have to take it up the
road and give it a run’ so I did, but I only did 20 minutes to
avoid ending up off the road!
On race morning, it was still raining so he drove the car
up, so I was at least dry when I got to practice. It was
the Member’s meeting at Goodwood on 13th March 1964.
I still go to that meet, and it is why it means so much to me.

The first car – a modified Lotus Seven chassis with a Ford Cortina 1500 engine


Revolution - March 2022