Harry relays his meeting with 5 time winner of the 24 Hours Le Mans race, Mr Derek Bell MBE.

Next stop in the whirlwind tour of getting signatures for the 100 copies of the Hall of Fame Edition of the Official 24 Heures du Mans Opus was Mr Derek Bell.  The signing session was to take place at 3 pm on 29th March 2017.

Ever the professional I was within 5 miles of Derek’s (yes we are now on first name basis, explained below) residence with an hour to spare.  Lack of breakfast and a rumbling stomach meant food beckoned but in and around the area there are only nice old village style pubs.  So I settled upon The Walnut Tree, what a discovery I wholly recommend the king prawns sauteed in chilli & garlic butter on a crostini (I had to Google that last one).  What a dish, shame it was only a starter, I said to the proprietor that dish needs to be a main course option.  High praise indeed, it is up there with my mother’s chicken curry and my roast chicken (contact me if you need either recipe).  In the words of the greatest method actor in the world – I’ll be back.

Right belly full, work mode switched on.  

As the houses have names it is quite difficult to navigate country lanes in an SUV that’s almost 5 metres long.  I saw a large entrance and thought it has to be that house and drove up the drive, I was wrong.  Realising my error I started to reverse and there in my rear view mirror was a shapely Italian – athletic, sexy, sensual & full bodied CAR!!  I knew it had to be Derek and the giveaway was looking across the hedge into the next property was the unmistakable profile of Derek driving into his driveway.

Once again Derek was so kind and helpful.  The signings took place in the dining room surrounded by various oil paintings of racing Porsches & Bentleys.  After explaining how special the Opus project was I could tell he was impressed as he mentioned how he was involved in other signings but nothing as impressive as the Opus – praise indeed.  So we got started, Derek signing and myself sheet feeding.  Throughout we were chatting about Le Mans, motorsports and especially John Surtees as Derek was present at his funeral only the day before.  So there was a lot of reminiscing and stories from yore.  

During our conversations and myself being the highly educated individual both in quality and quantity, I referred to Derek as Sir or Mr Bell whilst conversing and he simply turned around and said “Please just call me Derek”, I said I can’t do that.  But he said “After signing these we will have known each other long enough to call me Derek.”

About one third the way through Derek stopped as he did not like one of the signatures and he felt it was because his hands were cold, so we had a break whilst he warmed his hands on the AGA and also wrapping a warm towel around them.  He wanted to ensure that the signatures were good – an attitude I admired greatly.  So you 100 people who are lucky enough to be the proud owner of a Hall of Fame Edition, take note this wasn’t just done in a “Done Away with you” manner.

In our conversations by email I said I would only need 30 minutes to get the task in hand completed.  But due to the fantastic stories and Derek showing me some of his paintings and books I couldn’t believe that I was there for 100 minutes.  Not once was I harried (can you see what I did there?).

I simply took 3 photographs to prove Derek did indeed sign the sheets, the professional photosession will take place later in April, so you will need to wait for those shots.

For all you camera buffs wanting to know how I achieved such magnificent shots (reflection from oil painting was intentional!!), my secret is that I used a Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm VR in green mode (my speak for auto mode) with the daylight behind me.

Next Job:  Either Derek (interview & photosession) or Monsieur Henri Pescarolo