DAVID LESLIE & RICHARD LLOYD
The news came through as I sat in the Brands Hatch Press
Room………a jet had crashed at Farnborough, no, not the one in
Hampshire but Kent, just up the road……there was some question as
to whether Sunday’s BTCC races might be affected…….the track’s
emergency services would be on standby if the accident scene
required additional assistance………..some 12 hours later, early in the
morning I picked up Andrew Cotton’s email bringing the terrible
revelation that the accident had claimed the lives of the five men who
were on board. Two casualties were pilots, the other three were from
Apex Motorsport; boss, Richard Lloyd, driver, David Leslie and
engineer, Christopher Allarton. To say that this shook me to the core
would be an understatement……..not two weeks ago I had sat with
David and Richard in Monza hatching plans for 2008, I had known both
men since the 80’s as our paths crossed in course of many seasons. I
will miss them both, good men are hard to find.
Andrew had been called by the Daily Telegraph to comment on the
story and to get an appreciation of the two men from the motorsport
community, which we share here.
SCP contributors’ John Elwin and David Lister recall their friend David
And from across the Atlantic Tim Watson, ex Motoring News journalist
and now VP Communications & Public Affairs for Jaguar Land Rover
North America pays his own tribute to the two men.
To all the families, friends and colleagues of the deceased may we
here at SportsCarPros extend our deepest sympathies.
May they all rest in peace.
John Brooks, Kerry Morse, April 2008
Allan McNish led the tributes to David Leslie, the Dumfries-born touring car
driver turned commentator who died in an air crash at Farnborough on
Sunday. The 54-year-old’s death was yet another blow to Scottish motorsport
following Colin McRae, who died last year in a helicopter accident, and
McNish, a close friend of the Leslie family having also been born in Dumfries,
credited the Leslie family with helping him, and other top Scottish drivers, to
start their motorsport careers.
“Before I started and when he was at the height of his career he was known to
the family and I had heard these exciting stories of how he was beating this
guy called Nigel Mansell,” said McNish, who will drive for Audi in the Le Mans
Series race at Barcelona this weekend. “It is difficult to quantify the influence
of that on a seven year old. When I was 11, it was David and his father who
put me in my first go-kart.
“In Formula Ford, it was again David’s father who ran the team. They ensured
that at the end of 1987 I was recognised by the works teams. They did the
same with David Coulthard and they did the same with Dario Franchitti. David
put more into motorsport than he took out. He was still active and won his
final race. He was still getting into the car, putting the throttle down and loved
what he was doing. This is a shock for Dumfries.”
Leslie shot to fame in 1976 when he finished second in the Star of Tomorrow
Formula Ford scheme. In 1977, he won 30 races in the Formula Ford 1600
Championship and went on to a successful motorsport career in sports car
racing, finishing second in his class at Le Mans in 1987 and 1988. He drove
for the Silk Cut Jaguar team at Le Mans in 1990 and 1991, but it was in
touring car racing that he became a household name.
At the height of the British Touring Car Championship in the late 1990s,
Leslie drove for Honda and Nissan, finishing second in the drivers’
championship in 1999. “David of course was a great competitor within the
BTCC for many years, always exciting to watch, fiercely competitive and
incredibly passionate about his sport,” said BTCC director Alan Gow
yesterday. “The BTCC is a close-knit community and we mourn the tragic
loss of both David and Richard.”
Leslie continued to race until his death, winning a round of the Britcar series
last weekend at Silverstone.
He was also an accomplished commentator whose next assignment would
have been the World Touring Car Championship event in Puebla, Mexico this
weekend, sharing the commentary booth with Martin Haven.
“I grew up with Murray Walker and James Hunt as the standard for motor
racing commentary and David was the voice of reason between us,” said
Haven last night. “We worked together for the best part of ten years, and I
when I was on assignment with him, I never thought that it would be a hard
day at the office.”
Three-time World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx will race for BMW in
Mexico wearing a black arm band as a mark of respect. “I grew up watching
David racing and he was a source of inspiration to me,” said the 33-year-old.
“He proved that good guys can win championships by being hard, but fair
racers. When he turned his hand to commentating, and was the voice of the
FIA WTCC, I was equally impressed with his expertise and I know his
comments were always well respected in our paddocks.”
Andrew Cotton, April 2008
Forgive me if this piece rambles a bit but it’s written in the immediate
aftermath of hearing the sad news concerning the identity of those who lost
their lives in yesterday afternoon’s Biggin Hill air accident. Initial inference
that those who perished were well-known personalities from the the
motorsport world led to all sorts of speculation – Biggin Hill is owned by
Bernie Ecclestone after all. However, when news came that David Leslie was
amongst the dead I was devastated.
I first met David when, like so many others, he was a young hopeful chasing
his dream in the cut & thrust of 1970’s British Formula Ford racing. Not for
him the trappings of a big team. After spending the week working in the family
garage business in Carlisle, on the Scottish borders, he and his father would
hitch up a trailer to the back of their Ford Transit camper van and make the
long trek down to Silverstone, Brands Hatch or wherever, have a successful
weekends’ racing (there were often championship rounds at two circuits on
the same weekend) and return home for work on Monday morning.
A step-up to Formula Ford 2000 brought both British and European titles in
1979 together with Reynard, and in the same year he made his Formula 3
debut. By 1981 he was a regular front-runner in the prestigious Marlboro
British F3 Championship, almost the obligatory stepping-stone to F1 in those
days. However, it was to sportscars and Group C that David turned his
attention. Starting in C2, he was a natural choice for a drive with the Ecurie
Ecosse team but that also saw him enter a long-term relationship with Ray
Mallock. He went on to race works Aston Martins and TWR Jaguars, before
switching to the burgeoning Touring Car scene full-time in 1992. Again he
teamed-up with Mallock to run a Vauxhall Cavalier in Ecurie Ecosse colours.
Despite being very much a privateer team he took his first outright win in ’93
before embarking on a frustrating season with Mazda, then a rather happier
period as a works Honda driver. After that, he returned to RML (now running
the works Nissan deal), enjoying his best-ever BTCC season in 1999,
finishing runner-up to champion – and team mate – Laurent Aiello. He loved
the racing, was as hard as the next man in the take-no-prisoners world of
Super Touring but admitted privately that he did not enjoy the brutal, contact
nature of the series.
More recently he has become well-known as an erudite TV commentator,
perfectly complimenting Martin Haven’s excitable coverage of sportscar
(particularly Le Mans) and touring car racing for Motors TV and Eurosport,
providing the insight that only someone who has been there, done it, can do.
He had the ability to explain technical matters in a way that the layman could
understand – not always easy to do in the heat of the moment.
Away from the track (just!) David was married to Jane Broadley, daughter of
Eric Broadley of Lola fame and sadly the loss of David will caste a dark
shadow over the Lola company's 50th anniversary celebrations this year. One
of David’s big passions in recent times has been the restoration of a Lola Mk1
sportscar (his engineering abilities match his driving skills) that he was able
to race for the first time at Silverstone last year. The restoration was a real
labour of love, and more than once I bumped into him at classic car shows
rooting around in the autojumble for that elusive Hillman Husky hub carrier, or
whatever. He also returned to his Formula Ford roots, racing a self-prepared
car in the annual end-of-season Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone.
Also at Silverstone, he won his last-ever race just a week ago, co-piloting
Harry Handkammer’s BMW M3 to victory in a Britcar race on 22 March.
David was fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage and over the years has done
much to foster the up-coming talent following in his footsteps together with
his father, David Leslie Snr, running young drivers in the junior formulae. He
began by mentoring a young Allan McNish in 1987 as he claimed the
Dunlop/Autosport Star of Tomorrow Formula Ford title in his first season of
racing. David Coulthard followed suit in 1989 for David Leslie Racing, as the
team was now known, whilst Dario Franchitti took the honours in the Formula
Vauxhall Junior series for DLR two years later.
It is the little moments you always remember, like the occasion at the
Goodwood Festival of Speed last year when trying to get a shot of him in the
paddock, he thought the more interesting picture would be one of two drivers
sound asleep in the confined cockpit of a Group C car whilst all around them
engines revved! I wouldn’t claim to have been a close friend, but having known
David for so long I shall miss him, whether bumping into him at a racetrack, a
car show – where he always made time for a chat - or hearing him on TV.
To Jane and their two sons (the eldest of whom has embarked on his own
motor racing career working for Ray Mallock) we send our sincere
John Elwin March 2008
I first met David about 20 years or so ago. At the time he was driving for
RML/Ecosse in Gp C. He had driven a friend of mine's 928 in the British
Porsche Championship, and he was a guest of that same friend at the British
GP.. Of course, being a typical fan, and being presented with an ensnared
driver of no little repute, I proceeded to bombard him with boring questions
and drivel for, ooh, about 8 hours or so. This must have seemed like hell, for a
bloke trying to enjoy a day out, but the measure of the man was the delightful
way he in which he made me feel appreciated, as a fan, and the wonderful
way he entertained us. You made my day, that day, mate.
Fast forward some 15 or so years and I got to know David through his work in
the media, primarily (but not only) with Martin Haven and Eurosport in the
WTCC. David was always a person whom I looked forward to seeing in the
paddock and in the press room. Down to earth, honest in the opinion, and
with a dry humour that could cut to the quick.. He always had time for you
and was a perfect counter balance to Martin's mania. Along with many, I
suspect, watching WTCC will not quite be the same from now on.
As a footnote, I did once ask David about the aforementioned 928. The car
obviously left a lasting impression, as his opinion, some 20 odd years later,
was still somewhat fruity. It would appear that the source of that opinion was
its hairy nature and the pretty good scare it gave David during practice.
Unfortunately, David never got to test the 928’s metal in competition, as it
suffered a mysterious start line failure of engine and/or drive train. Its race
lasted about 2 yards, at best. Rumours of a Scottish influence in that demise
were never fully investigated...
I rather got the opinion that David enjoyed his life, and it is extremely sad that
he was taken from us so.
Along with the rest of us here, at SportsCarPros, may I offer my sincere
condolences to David's family and friends.
David Lister, March 2008
In my years within motor sport first as a journalist and then with a number of
car manufacturers I have been fortunate to meet many interesting people.
However, one man that has always stood out to me, and that was David
Leslie. Our paths crossed on many occasions from my time at Mazda
through to Ferrari and then Aston Martin and the measure of the man was not
just his outstanding ability on the track in whatever he drove but his down to
earth, good natured approach to everyone. From team owners to fans, David
always made time for everyone and was modest and always very
unassuming. Content to listen to others and take it all in before making his
opinion felt - often with that spark of Leslie humour and a twinkle in his eye.
He was a fantastic family man and can best be described as one of life's true
Richard too was in the same mould. I knew of him but not very well and it
wasn't until in recent times with his tie up with Jaguar and the GT3
programme that he and I spoke regularly and met on several occasions. He
demonstrated common sense, great business acumen and was a real
pleasure to work with. We'd just started talking about racing Jaguars here in
the US and his enthusiasm for racing and his drive for success were
infectious. A truly sad day for motor sport and my thoughts are with both of
these great guys' families.
Tim Watson, April 2008