Gotta Have More Derek Bell

I’m a huge fan of Petrolicious‘ films and boy have they released a beauty.  They recently premiered a video in which THE Derek Bell drove a Porsche 917 around the old Targa Florio course. Shortly thereafter another video came out where Derek introduces us to the Porsches 917.  Could it be? More Bell?

Yes. Yes it was.  So much Bell so little time.  I must have spent a good hour watching these videos, and judging by the comments and likes, I wasn’t alone. I know I wasn’t the only nerd who knows how awesome the cars, places, and Mr Bell were but just in case there is anyone trying to figure out who that Old Guy is or what in the heck a Targa Florio could be, here’s my best attempt at a “Reader’s Digest” version. I’m doing this with the help of various books, websites,  and Wikipedia so, please be kind:

Derek Bell Porsche

Damn Good Porsche’s:

The 718 = Awesome.718

Configuration Type 771 B8
Location Mid, longitudinally mounted
Construction aluminum block and head
Displacement 1,981 cc / 120.9 cu in
Valvetrain 2 valves / cylinder, DOHC
Fuel feed 4 Carburettors
Lubrication Dry sump
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated
Power 240 bhp / 179 KW
BHP/Liter 121 bhp / liter
Body aluminium
Chassis steel tubular spaceframe
Front suspension twin parallel arms, torsion bars, telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension unequal length wishbones, coil springs over dampers
Steering worm and nut
Brakes (fr/r) discs
Gearbox 5 speed Manual
Drive Rear wheel drive
Weight 720 kilo / 1,587 lbs
Wheelbase / Track (fr/r) 2,200 mm (86.6 in) / 1,290 mm (50.8 in) / 1,250 mm (49.2 in)
Performance Figures:
Power to weight 0.33 bhp / kg
Top Speed 255 km/h (158 mph)

The 917 = Awesomer.Derek_Bell_Porsche_917

Configuration 912.10 180º V12
Location Mid, longitudinally mounted
Construction magnesium alloy block, aluminum head
Displacement 4,907 cc / 299.4 cu in
Bore / Stroke 86.0 mm (3.4 in) / 70.4 mm (2.8 in)
Compression 10.5:1
Valvetrain 2 valves / cylinder, DOHC
Camshaft Gear driven
Fuel feed Bosch Fuel Injection
Lubrication Dry sump
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated
Power 600 bhp / 448 KW @ 8,300 rpm
Torque 563 Nm / 415 ft lbs @ 6,400 rpm
BHP/Liter 122 bhp / liter


Body fibreglass
Chassis aluminium spaceframe
Suspension (fr/r) unequal upper and lower arms, coil springs, Bilstein dampers
Steering rack-and-pinion
Brakes ventilated discs, all-round
Gearbox 5 speed Manual
Drive Rear wheel drive
Weight 800 kilo / 1,764 lbs
Length / Width / Height 4,120 mm (162.2 in) / 1,980 mm (78 in) / 940 mm (37 in)
Wheelbase / Track (fr/r) 2,300 mm (90.6 in) / 1,564 mm (61.6 in) / 1,584 mm (62.4 in)
Performance Figures:
Power to weight 0.75 bhp / kg
Top Speed 354 km/h (220 mph)

A 45 Mile Lap 11 Times:

By now most speed freaks have heard of The Isle Of Man TT.  A time trial race for people who like to straddle things at 200mph.  If we hop in the Wayback Machine we will find that races held on public roads with insane track lengths were once quite common.  Road America and Watkins Glen were open road races until safety concerns led them to build the legendary tracks that exist today.  Isle Of Man is huge and of course there are La Sarthe and Nordschleife, all still used.  Florio is the granddaddy of them all though.


Named for the man that organised it, the Targa Florio was an 11 lap race around the Palermo countryside.  It started off as a 92 mi course but was eventually shortened the the famous 45 mi circuit in 1932.  The course had 900 corners and maintained average speeds around 80mph.  I know 80 doesn’t seem fast but to try to put that into perspective, think about doing 80mph down a bike path  for about 6 hours in a 600hp monster with no driver aids. Yeah, insanity.

Unfortunately safety concerns surrounding the race ended the event in the mid-seventies. Something about wheeling a 600hp Porsche or Ferrari around narrow roads, past shops and houses and spectators without marshals or K-walls didn’t sit well with some advocacy groups. Today it lives as a legend of the past and a jewel of an event that welcomed some of the best cars and drivers of the first golden age of sports car racing.

The Original Mr. LeMans:

Derek Bell

Derek Bell never raced the Targa.  He raced and won other things though. Things like Le Mans (5 time winner) the 24hrs of Daytona (3 time winner) and cars for McLaren, Ferrari, and Tecno during his years in F1.  Part of what made the Petrolicious film so great was being able to watch a legend drive another legend around a legend.

Unless you’ve gone over 200 miles an hour, in my opinion, you haven’t been into another world. You’d go over the edge and it’s suddenly very strange. It becomes a surreal experience over 200. In the rain, particularly.

How I know him, as should you, is behind the wheel of a Porsche.  Bell joined Jackie Iycx, Brian Redman and Vic Elford as driver for Steve McQueen’s masterpiece LeMans as a stunt driver for many of the scenes shot in the Porsche during the film. I never got that chance to see Bell race in his prime, but thanks to YouTube and the LeMans movie young guns like me get a chance to see him in action.

That “Old Guy,” Derek Bell, is a legend and this is just a shaving off the tip of the his iceberg of a career. Think of this more of an introduction to Derek Bell, and probably a hasty one at that (handshake?). This is just a quickie summary of why the last week of Derek Bell overload on my Facebook feed has been awesome. Like Christopher Walken, “I have a fever. And the only prescription is more [Derek] Bell.”

Derek Bell


Check Out The Videos:

The Gorgeous Petrolicious Film


Vic Elford Commenting On The Targa


Onboard From A Porsche 908