David Leslie and Richard Lloyd Remembered
The telephone call on Sunday, March 30 brought devastating news; David
Leslie and Richard Lloyd were feared dead following a plane crash at
Farnborough. The information was confirmed, and the first news stories were
written that night. On Monday it was time to start collating the tributes. They
were not hard to find as both men were held in extremely high regard.
As the stories were being filed, I reflected on a link I had with the two men. In
1984 my father was due to drive Lloyd’s Porsche 956 at Silverstone and I had
thumbed a lift to watch. The T-car needed a few brief laps and after a
practised childhood tantrum, (“but you promised!” “No I bloody didn’t”) I was
placed in the passenger seat alongside Lloyd.
Actually there was no passenger seat, so I perched on the fire extinguisher.
Lloyd calmly drove the track, keeping a careful eye on this sprat next to him
to make sure little hands didn’t fiddle with the brake bias, turbo boost
pressure, or anything else that could surprise him when he put the hammer
At Monza mid-March 2008, Lloyd prowled his garage like a proud father after
Leslie had just set fifth fastest time in the GT3 Jaguar XKR. After numerous
press releases claiming that the car was good enough, said Lloyd, it was
nice that Leslie had now proved it. Plans were hatched to promote Jaguar on
the back of an expected successful season. After a faltering start, the Jaguar
programme was on course to deliver on earlier promises. It was the first time
since the Formula One debacle that Jaguar was returning to racing, the
project kick-started by Lloyd following a chance meeting at Silverstone with
Jaguar chief designer Ian Callum.
Callum, Stuart Dyble and Lloyd had helped to push the idea through the
corridors of power. With the support of lawn mower mogul Harry
Handkammer, who had dissuaded Lloyd from closing the doors of Apex
Motorsport after two and a half lean years following the cessation of the
Bentley programme in 2003, the XKR was chosen, developed, and raced in
2007. This was to be its year for international success.
A comment about how long it had taken me to get to the end of the pit lane
and find him “by accident I suppose!” was typical of Lloyd, who then insisted
that I put my name down for a media lap with David. Thus, I lined up with
track staff carrying pencils pretending to know what was going on, waiting for
him to pit. David returned his second passenger of the day with a wry smile
having made a complete dogs dinner of the Ascari chicane and thought he
had scared the poor girl witless, a charge she later denied.
Leslie was bedding in brakes and so was nowhere near the limit, particularly
as he had failure ballast in the passenger seat in the form of a fat journo
hack, but was none the less impressive, nothing less than what could be
expected from a true star of the touring car world.
Leslie was a humble man who delivered cars in his spare time when not
racing in the Britcar series, or commentating for Motors with Mark Cole and
with Martin Haven on the WTCC for Eurosport. A trip to Le Mans with my
brother-in-law two years ago reminded me of his reputation. Out to a quiet
dinner on Sunday after the race, one of Donal’s work colleagues was
awestruck by Leslie, who was sitting at the next table. It made his weekend
to meet him.
After leaving the BTCC in 2003, Leslie slipped into commentary with ease,
but he was active in all areas. Allan McNish commented that it was the
Leslie family who played influential and key roles in the development of his
own career, that of David Coulthard, Dario Franchitti, Mat Jackson, and that
he was advising the likes of Paul di Resta. On top of this he lectured at the
University of Swansea and picked up the opponents of the England cricket
team as a chauffeur.
As Martin Haven pointed out, he was welcome in every pit and spent as
much time collecting information as he did selecting a restaurant for dinner.
“He could almost have been French!” said Haven. After a particularly
unsuccessful party at the WTCC race in Porto in 2007 (we were the only
guests and the promised dancing girls had failed to materialise), Dave Lister
played taxi driver and gave the three of us a lift back to the hotel. The Haven-
Leslie double act was in full swing, with alcohol on board to liven things up.
Haven set up his commentary partner, who delivered the final lines with
precision. Lister’s sense of direction was the target and while he still
maintains it was further but quicker, it was a long 20 minutes for our snapper
who, to his credit, didn’t kick us out despite numerous threats.
During the races, Haven was the motor mouth of the two, Leslie quietly sat at
the back of the studio working out point scores as the race developed and
offering carefully measured opinions with the style of Martin Brundle but
without the drama.
Sunday’s accident has cost the motorsport fraternity two accomplished
professionals, and their presence will be sorely missed at race tracks around
Andrew Cotton, April 2008