This year marks the 40th anniversary of Gulf winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in a car of its own name and also, of course, the first of Derek Bell’s five victories in the world’s greatest endurance race. To celebrate the occasion, Derek and the car he and Jacky Ickx drove to victory will be reunited on Thursday, June 11 at the famous Hotel de France, in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir – where John Wyer and the Gulf team stayed during their Le Mans campaigns.
The car will be on display most of the morning in the square outside the hotel and Derek will be there to meet the press and the public before taking part in a special lunch organised in his honour. He will also be signing exclusive Gulf GR8 post cards (the original Tony Hurst art work especially commissioned for the occassion) in front of the 1975 Le Mans winning Gulf GR8 race car situated in front of the Hotel de France from 10:30 - 11:00 am and from 12:30 - 1:00 pm.
The ROFGO collection, which now owns the Le Mans winning car, together with more than thirty other official Gulf works racers, has kindly made the car available for the reunion. From there, the Ford-powered GR8 will be transported to the Circuit du 24 Heures, and more specifically to the Le Musée des 24 Heures-Circuit de la Sarthe (ruled by a public body the Sarthe Cultural Centre), where it will be on view to visitors to the museum throughout race weekend.
“We are delighted to be able to reunite Derek with the car in which he first won Le Mans and that the car will be on display to race fans, at the museum,” explains Gulf Oil International Brand and Marketing Manager, Caroline Parker. “Gulf and Le Mans have an association that goes back almost 50 years and the Gulf GR8 is unique in Le Mans history, in that it is the only winning car ever to carry a sponsor name as part of its officially recognised designation. We are very much looking forward to the celebrations and our thanks and appreciation go to the ROFGO Collection, for making it possible.”
The prospect of the reunion is certainly something that Derek Bell himself is relishing.
“Back in 1975 I was able to celebrate the first of my Le Mans victories at the Hotel de France, to be coming back to the hotel and be reunited with the Gulf GR8 that took myself and Jacky Ickx across the finish at Le Mans will be a special moment for me," said Bell. "Little did I realize back then that my love affair with Le Mans would stretch across five decades! The teams, the cars, the race and, most importantly, the fans of the 24 hours of Le Mans have given me so much over those years, I am delighted therefore, to be back with the car that started it all.”
The Hotel De France is situated at 20 Place de la République, 72340, La Chartre-sur-le-Loir, some 35 kilometers South East Mulsanne and 48 kilometers from the Le Mans centre. Le Musée des 24 Heures- Circuit de la Sarthe is situated at 9 Place Luigi Chinetti, 72100 LE MANS, just by the main (North) entrance of the race circuit. It is open throughout race week and race weekend, and the GR8 will be on display from Friday to Sunday.
The 83rd edition of the day-long endurance race at Le Mans will run from June 13-14. Stay tuned for more coverage of the race.