Derek and Bentley inspired by the Mission Motorpsort Team at the Le Mans Classic
Bentley’s brand ambassador and five time Le Mans winner, Derek Bell MBE, returned to the iconic French race circuit last weekend to spearhead a unique motorsport challenge.
Racing a 4 ½ litre Bentley Blower at the Le Mans Classic (in partnership with owner Martin Overington) Bell was supported by a 3-man pit crew from Mission Motorsport - a UK-based charity that rehabilitates seriously injured military personnel by actively involving them in a wide range of competitive motor racing challenges.
Bell’s support team was led by former Royal Marine Commando Tony Compson who worked alongside Gary Dunning and Trooper James Gilborn.
All three men have suffered serious, life-changing injuries on active service but that did not stop the Mission Motorsport team from delivering some of the fastest possible pit stops for Bell and Overington or working right through the night after Friday’s practice sessions to ensure the Bentley Blower was able to race on Saturday.
Derek Bell commented: “It was an honour to have the Mission Motorsport lads as our support crew, they showed a real Le Mans spirit by working tirelessly on the car when we faced some major mechanical issues and were fast and extremely focussed in the pit lane. It was genuinely hard to believe this was their first Le Mans experience or that these men are still recovering from some terrible injuries.”
Martin Overington added: “It was privilege to work with Tony, Gary and James. They were a huge asset throughout our campaign at Le Mans and Derek and I always felt we were in safe hands and had the best possible chance of being competitive. ”
Whilst there was disappointment that the Bentley Blower was unable to compete during the Sunday racing, Bell and Overington secured a highly credible 14th out of 65 entries when they raced on Saturday with the Mission Motorsport team achieving a 1.32 second pit stop.
Major James Cameron, Director of Mission Motorsport comments: “The challenge of going racing, being competitive and working in a team environment again is playing a key part in restoring the confidence levels as well as a physical fitness of large numbers of service personnel who are currently on the long road to recovery. It really does not get much better than racing a Bentley at Le Mans with Derek Bell and we hope the story will inspire other people to support us.”
Bentley Motors, Derek Bell and Mission Motorsport would like to thank Martin Overington for his kind support during the Le Mans Classic race. The team was sponsored by Crewe Genuine Parts, makers and suppliers of replacement parts for all Bentley and Rolls-Royce models built in Crewe, England from 1955 to the present day.
Image © Anthony Fraser