But the story of why I am me starts a long time ago.....
When people ask how I got into racing, I initially avoid telling people my Dad was a racing driver. Not because I am not proud of him (no son could be prouder than me) but I tend to see a shift in their attitude; sort of a “oh so it was easy then” tone to things followed by that look, the one people give someone that apparently had a silver spoon lodged sideways in their mouth from birth.
Well as anyone that knows the Bell family can tell you, my father was a racing driver all right. But he was also a farmer by trade and a firm disciplinarian, a man that stood by the mantra ‘manners maketh a man’ and who gave my sister and I as much love as a man can give without spoiling us. What this meant for my career was that he would help me as long as I helped myself along the way. Bit of a bummer really…..(joking).
My dad and I were extremely lucky in that we loved spending time together, shared a passion for sports, and couldn’t wait to take off across the farm on our motorbikes. So some of my best childhood memories were of Dad and I covered in mud grinning like mad-men to the sound track of 2-stroke engines!
This soon led to schoolboy motocross and many weekends all over the South of England, where I would try to match whatever talent I had to what I know my Dad believed I could do on a bike! God those were great times. I can still hear him yelling “GO JB’ and feel his unbridled pride and passion from the sidelines. And also, his barely concealed disappointment when I rode like a wanker!
So why no karting? I get asked that a lot and to be honest it wasn’t a big thing in my area of the country growing up, none of my friends did it, and of course my own father (who would have been the one to encourage and transport me around to the tracks) was pretty busy with his own racing career. I do regret it in one way; for example, at my first Vauxhall Lotus race at Thruxton. a wee Scott named Alan McNish was on the grid who had already probably done a billion races behind the wheel of a kart! Consequently I got my rookie ass well spanked, as Karting is undeniably the best preparation for a race driver. But I think motocross gave me a great feel for traction in adverse conditions and I was always bloody good at standing starts. Nothing makes you fast out of the gate than 30 nutty teenagers racing side for a four-foot gap at the end of a field!
So there I was, the son of a racing World Champion, and no real ambition to follow in his footsteps. I loved my motorbike racing, crazy about driving anything I could get my hands on around the farm but to be honest, I had no idea how to get started in car racing. All I saw was the grand side of International Sports Cars with all those top drivers – and it seemed so far removed from what I might be able to do it just never caught hold in my mind.
Until one day my mate James and I went to Brands Hatch to watch the Formula Ford Festival – and suddenly, bam, like a 2x4 across the forehead I realized I really wanted to do this. I could see for the first time how you became a racing driver and get started. So I went home full of excitement, cornered Dad and boldly said that I wanted to do FF1600.
To which he profoundly said “ Great, how the f - - k do we tell your mother?”
I have many other stories of how I actually got behind the wheel of my first racing car, and the trials and tribulations therein, but I will save those for another time when some more self-absorbed, indulgent blogs are called for.
While I have not officially retired from behind the wheel, as I still have ambitions to race long into the future, I am as dedicated to developing my television broadcasting and hosting career as I was to racing twenty years ago! I now live in Los Angeles and am busy writing new shows, hosting for various clients and working out how to become rich and famous……
Note: Since beginning his career in 1988, Justin has achieved many significant racing accomplishments, including the 1997 FIA GT2 World Championship, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998 and second-place finishes in Le Mans and Daytona, and a pair of SCCA Trans-Am wins.
Early in his career, Justin made consistent progress through a variety of racing categories, while appearing in various television programs. In 1993, he was co-host of the motor sports television program 555 Performance World, which ran on Asia's largest satellite network Star TV and was seen by over 80 million viewers. This led to him hosting a six part series, The International Young Driver of the Year on BBC television. Currently Justin is working with the racing network Speed Channel as on-air talent for the American Le Mans Series.
Along the way he raced for major car manufacturers including Saab, Peugeot, Porsche, BMW, Dodge and General Motors. For Dodge Viper, he won the 1997 FIA GT2 world championship and the GT2 class at Le Mans in 1998. In 2000 Justin signed with General Motors as a driver for the factory Corvette Racing team, finishing second in the Daytona 24 Hours, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans.