David Leslie and Richard Lloyd killed in plane crash
Issued March 31st 2008
is with great sadness that we record the death on Sunday
30th March of David Leslie.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.