Five-time Le Mans winner and McMurtry development driver, Derek Bell, has been honoured with the prestigious title of Grand Marshal of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2021. As Grand Marshal, Derek, whose first Le Mans triumph came in 1975 before an incredible seven-year stint of podium finishes, including four further wins, spanning 1981 to 1988, will lead out the competing cars for the formation lap ahead of this year’s race. The 89th edition of the world’s oldest active endurance sports car race will start on 21st August at 4pm local time and is considered one of the best renowned motorsport events in the world, sometimes called the ‘Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency’. In accepting this accolade, Derek joins an elite group of drivers whose contributions to motorsport have been similarly recognised, including Tom Kristensen, Mark Webber, and Jacky Ickx.
Derek started motor racing in 1964 and won his first race that same year at Goodwood. Scouted by Enzo Ferrari, it was just four years later that Derek made his Formula One debut in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. In 1970, Derek started sports car racing which is where his talent really shone. The five wins at Le Mans, three wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona and two World Sportscar Championship titles he accrued in the 1970s and 80s cemented Derek as one of the greats. In 1986 Derek was awarded an MBE for his services to motorsport.
Derek continued racing into the 1990s alongside his eldest son Justin. The father-son duo raced together in the 1991 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 1992 and 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, the latter falling on Fathers’ Day when Derek and Justin came third; a podium finish Derek has credited as his proudest moment.
More recently, Derek has been driving the McMurtry Spéirling in a development driver role. The Spéirling is our experimental, pure electric, track car concept, that made its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this month. Derek Bell drove the Spéirling up the iconic Goodwood Hillclimb to the delight of roaring crowds as part of the ‘Sports Racers Past, Present and Future’ category.
Inspired by the golden age of motorsport, we at McMurtry developed the Spéirling by exploring the route that uninhibited technical evolution would have taken from that day to this, to create the ultimate no-limits track car. The first-of-its-kind, the Spéirling features the ground-breaking McMurtry downforce-on-demand system that uses over 80hp of fan power to create downforce that is independent of vehicle speed. Further, the Spéirling is powered by the McMurtry E-axle giving it a 1hp:1kg power-to-weight ratio, with a rear wheel drive setup.
Derek has been instrumental to the development of the car, providing nuanced feedback that has allowed the engineering team to fine-tune the vehicle and fully understand the nature of their creation. With razor-sharp discernment of the vehicle’s character, Derek’s experience has enabled the team at McMurtry to sprint through the first phase of development and reach new heights of confidence in the design. Derek’s quick wit and sparkling humour have made working with the motorsport legend not just a privilege but a pleasure.
Many congratulations Derek!
McMurtry Spéirling being driven by Derek Bell MBE at the Goodwood Festival of Speed