Return to Home Page Click here to discover more about the MG EX264 The latest news from AD Motorsport and RML Race Reports and Galleries Team History and Personnel Driver Profiles Media Information and Log-in Useful Links Team sponsors and how to become one Merchandise and Downloads

David Leslie, Team Marcos 1995. Photo: Marcus PottsRML Motorsport News
David Leslie and Richard Lloyd killed in plane crash
Issued March 31st 2008

David Leslie 1953-2008

It is with great sadness that we record the death on Sunday 30th March of David Leslie.

David was killed, alongside the four other occupants of a Cessna Citation 501 private jet, when the aircraft encountered what are believed to be mechanical difficulties soon after take-off from Biggin Hill airfield in Kent. Together with Richard Lloyd, owner and manager of Apex Motorsport, who also died in the accident, David was heading for Pau in the south of France, where he was scheduled to test drive the team’s new GT3 Jaguar XKR at the nearby Nogaro circuit.

Born in Annan, Dumfries, on the Scottish border in November 1953, David Leslie had become a popular figure to motorsport enthusiasts after nearly thirty years at the top of his profession. In recent years he had reached an even wider audience through his work as a broadcaster and commentator for Eurosport TV, where his distinctive voice – a warm yet slightly gravelly Scottish brogue – had brought knowledge and humour to motorsport reporting on television. His coverage of the Le Mans Series, and in particular the Le Mans 24 Hours, also meant that David was a familiar face around the pitlane and paddock when RML’s MG Lola was in action, but his association with the team goes back much further than that.

David won his first title at the age of 16, when he became Scottish Karting Champion. It was a title he would collect five times in all. Moving into single-seaters, he took the Formula Ford Championship in 1978, and by the early eighties was amongst the leaders in Formula 3 – competing against, and frequently getting the better of, the likes of Nigel Mansell and Derek Warwick.

While Formula 1 beckoned for some of those contemporaries, David had his heart set on racing with a roof over his head. In the mid-eighties David started to contest the World Sportscar Championship, and established what would become a lasting and very successful partnership with Ray Mallock.

RML had been formed in 1984. With the now-famous Aston Martin Nimrod project recently completed, Ray Mallock’s outfit embarked upon a new venture in association with the famous name of Ecurie Ecosse. As a Scot, David was an obvious choice to drive the car, and having finished second in the C2 class in 1985, he would steer the distinctive red car to the World Sportscar Championship C2 title in the following season. It was the beginning of a remarkable relationship.

Not only did further WSC projects follow, with David at the helm, including the awesome and highly advanced AMR1 of 1988-89, but RML also moved into Touring Cars, and David moved with them.

Under the Ecurie Ecosse banner once again, RML entered the British Touring Car Championship in 1992 with a pair of former works-prepared Vauxhall Cavaliers, and David closed the season in seventh place. The following year, still as a privateer team, David took his first victories for Ecurie Ecosse and RML, two in all, and was instrumental in the squad being awarded Vauxhall “works” status in 1994.

For a while David and RML then followed separate paths, with David going first to Mazda before joining Honda, while RML maintained strong links with General Motors. For David, one of the diverse opportunities that came his way included the chance to race alongside one of RML’s current drivers; Thomas Erdos. In 1995, while nearing the height of his career, Leslie displayed enormous depth of character by being prepared to step into an untried newcomer to the Le Mans circuit, knowing he had little or no chance of success. He joined the fledgling Team Marcos outfit as one of six drivers braving the La Sarthe circuit in the thunderous LM600s, and by all accounts, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Against all the odds, the #71 LM600 he shared with Chris Marsh and François Migault reached the flag, while Thomas Erdos and co-drivers Chris Hodgetts and Cor Euser, lasted 20 hours in the #70 Marcos.

Perhaps more famously, David had previously been a works driver for TWR Silk Cut Jaguar in 1990 (sharing an XJR12 with Alain Ferté and Martin Brundle), and then again in 1991 and 1993 – the latter in the XJ220. He raced a total of 10 times in the Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing 2nd in C2 in 1987 for Ecurie Ecosse (RML), and 2nd in the IMSA category for Mazda in 1988, setting a class lap record along the way.

When Nissan decided to go into Touring Cars in 1997, they chose RML to prepare their entries, and David Leslie recognised the potential of the Japanese manufacturer’s arrival in the BTCC.

The first season was tough going, but in 1998 RML took the team title, and then followed that in 1999 with a clean sweep - the Primera proving virtually unbeatable. Partnered by 1998 Le Mans winner Laurent Aïello, Leslie and the RML Nissans enjoyed their best-ever season, finishing first and second in the championship. Sadly for David, it was the Frenchman who scored the most points, but it would be a BTCC career highlight for the Scot.

Having achieved an unbeatable record, Nissan looked elsewhere for future glory, while David found work for a few years in America and as a privateer driver, although still retained close links with RML, acting as works manager in the early 2000s. His situation as a driver changed again in 2002, when he was chosen to lead Proton’s assault on the BTCC. The Malaysian manufacturer’s Impian was woefully uncompetitive, but despite this, achieved some memorable results with David at the wheel, including an unlikely podium. He finished the season seventh overall. The following year, 2003, would prove to be David’s swansong in BTCC, and after a total of nine victories he would finally turn his back on Touring Cars.

In the years that followed, David not only embarked upon his new career as a commentator for television, but he also maintained his passion for hands-on racing. He became a regular in historic and club events, and renewed acquaintances with several of the cars he had raced to success in years gone by.

Richard Lloyd, who also died in the accident, was co-owner of Apex Motorsport, and was at the brink of an exciting new project in the GT3 Jaguar XKR. Entered in the new European GT3 series, the car was expected to be at the forefront of this year’s competition. His experience as a team manager, which included steering Bentley to an impressive Le Mans victory in 2003, had been seen as the foundation for Apex Motorsport’s anticipated success in GT3.

Photo: Joost Custers, DailysportscarRichard was also an accomplished racing driver in his own right, having finished second overall at Le Mans in 1985 (Porsche 956) and been a regular winner in the World Sportscar Championship between 1981 and 1990. Prior to that he had starred in the British Saloon Car Championship, with various wins in his Chevrolet Camaro, Opel Commodore and VW Golf GTi.

The future of Apex Motorsport has not yet been announced, although the team’s Jaguar was conspicuous at Nogaro today (right) when a minute’s silence was held in memory of all those so tragically killed. These also included the Cessna’s two pilots, Mike Roberts and Mike Chapman, and Christopher Allarton, who had recently joined Apex Motorsport as a data engineer.

Aside from his work as a test and development driver for the likes of Apex Motorsport, for whom he was looking forward to a full season in European GT3, David Leslie never gave up racing, and was still winning as recently as last week. Co-driving a BMW M3 E46 with Harry Handkammer, co-owner of Apex Motorsport, he took the chequered flag on March 22nd in a Britcar Endurance Series event at Silverstone. It seems tragically fitting that he should be victorious in what fate has since proven would be his last ever motor race.

We extend our condolences to David’s wife Jane and their two sons, Graham and James. He will be missed by so many people, but no more so than by his family and friends.

Some Personal Thoughts

Ray Mallock

David and I won many Group C2 races together in the '80s. We also co-drove the works Aston Martin AMR1 in '88 and '89 before David moved into Touring Cars. He gave RML its first Touring Car win at Thruxton in 1993 in the Cavalier.

It was especially sad for me in 1995, when we got the Vauxhall works contract, and we were unable to include David as part of the deal. Vauxhall already had John Cleland and Jeff Allum under contract. However, when Nissan chose us to develop their Touring cars, we were then able to put David forward as our number one choice for the works Nissan programme of 1997, and the rest, as they say, is history.

No motorsports fan who was around to witness the hectic BTCC battles of the late '90s will forget David's heroic efforts in the RML-prepared Primera. His steely determination and informed feedback played a big part in taking Nissan to the BTCC Manufacturers' title in both 1998 and 1999, with a runner-up position in the '99 Drivers' Championship coming as a personal reward for his consistency.

In fact, David’s test-driving skills were a constant and recurring theme of our accomplishments throughout the 1990s, and it is interesting to note that only the cars that David actively drove were truly successful.

When he wasn't doing the driving himself, David was helping others to improve theirs in his lesser-known role as driving coach. Both David Coulthard and Allan McNish benefited greatly from his experience and patience. His quiet modesty made him a perfect role model for anyone stepping into the intense arena of motor racing.

'David never pushed himself forward or put anyone else down. He was a true gentleman, a superb and very fair driver, and a great supporter of RML. Our two families were very close and we even took holidays together. We have truly lost a good friend. Our thoughts are with his wife Jane and sons Graham and James.

Mike Newton

David showed that it is possible to combine being hugely driven and competitive on track, with being kind, honest and a pleasure to be with off track. He will be greatly missed, not only by those of us privileged to know him personally as a friend, but also by the many who followed and admired him throughout his extended career in motor racing and enjoyed his TV commentary.

This is a terrible loss to Motor Racing on and off track, and the world in general. Our thoughts are with Jane, the rest of his family, and the families of the others who died in the crash.

Adam Wiseberg

I always looked forward to spending time with David at race meetings; the Le Mans Series races abroad where he did the commentary from a studio in London were the poorer for his absence.

As others have said, he was remarkable in being a successful racing driver who didn't appear to have made any enemies. He was always a gentleman, both on and off the track with a wonderful insight into all forms of racing. I'm so pleased that he won, what turned out to be, his last race over the Easter weekend at Silverstone. My thoughts and sympathies go out to Jane, Graham and James.

A few words also about Richard Lloyd. He was another gentleman, who achieved much within the sport both as a driver and team principal.

I watched him win British Saloon Car races in his mighty Camaro Z/28 in the early '70s, and then competed against him, with Richard driving that same car, as recently as last September. He was still both quick and competitive at 62 and though we swapped paint and finished just over a second apart he was just as friendly as ever at the bar later.

Both David and Richard will be much missed and British motorsport is the poorer for their sad, tragic and untimely passing.

Thomas Erdos

I was very lucky to have had David as team mate for my first Le Mans experience back in 1995, when we both drove the Marcos LM600. Le Mans can be a very daunting experience for a new driver. Both David and Jane Leslie were fantastic to me the whole week, making my first Le Mans experience so much easier.

One episode particularly stays in my mind . . . I asked David to give me an idea of the braking point for the first chicane, and he said to brake at the 250 board. Back in 1995, we were driving 1300kgs cars with 650 horsepower . . . and I’m sure Mr. Marsh won’t mind me saying, the LM600 was far from being a sorted car at that time. After a couple of laps I ran towards the first chicane using all of the 650hp from the Chevy engine and put the brakes on at the 250 mark. I didn't put full pressure on the brake pedal, initially thinking David was being generous about the braking distance as I was a Le Mans rookie. I'd come fresh from single-seaters, where mostly everywhere you went the 100 board was the earliest you’d brake at. I very nearly didn't make that chicane! Using all the gears to help me slow down I finally made it through, although I didn't manage to get to the apex! When I returned to the pits I told David that 250 was definitely the limit for us . . . and he said calmly . . . yes, I told you that! We had a good laugh about it. David was a very honest driver as well as a great team player. I spent the whole week watching and learning from David. I was so lucky to have had someone like him to learn from.

This is a very sad time for all of us. David was “part of the furniture” at RML for so many years and both Ray and Phil were very close to him. He’ll be in all our minds, especially this coming weekend in Barcelona.

To Jane and the boys, my thoughts are with you at this very difficult time.

From my own point of view, I have lost someone I admired hugely, both as a person, and as a driver. I met David for the first time when he raced with Team Marcos in 1995, and while our lives were on opposite sides of the Armco, David’s down to earth and approachable personality meant that I never felt distanced by his eminence as a driver or his extensive knowledge of the sport. Many years have passed since then, but David never failed to find time to talk, and would always cross a crowded pressroom or a busy paddock to say hello and ask after the family. I shall miss the sincerity of his smile – a smile that invariably stretched to the very corners of his eyes – and I shall miss his ready wit, his insight and his unique voice, but most of all, I shall miss his friendship.

Radio Le Mans

To listen to a half-hour tribute to David Leslie and Richard Lloyd from the team at Radio Le Mans, please click this link:

Click here to visit Radio Le Mans

John Hindhaugh and Martin Haven discuss the lives of David Leslie and Richard Lloyd, with additional insight from Graham Goodwin, deputy editor of Dailysportscar.