Les Leston, who has died aged 91, was an awardwinning jazz drummer in his teens, playing the London clubs with the Clay Pigeons, a band led by Belgian trumpeter and racing driver Johnny Claes.
After World War II Les — real name Lazarus Fingleston — dealt in war surplus to fund an F3 career in Coopers and his own Leston Special, winning the British Championship. In sports cars he raced a Connaught and a Bobtail Cooper, and he did several F1 races for Connaught, including the 1956 Italian GP at Monza.
After works drives for BRM, qualifying 12th in the British GP, and Aston Martin, finishing sixth in the Narburgring 1000Kms with Roy Salvadori, he had an immense accident at Caen in 1958 when the engine of his F2 Lotus seized. The only ambulance was busy, so Leston lay injured for 14 laps. He recovered to become almost unbeatable in British GT racing with his Lotus Elite, which as a reminder of his musical life wore the registration DAD10 — Daddy-0 being a friendly term in the jazz world.
His car accessory shop in London’s High Holborn prospered greatly, and in the boy-racer days of the 1960s all the best-dressed Minis and Anglias wore Leston woodrim steering wheels and enlarged exhaust extensions. As racing safety rules changed this grew into a big business in crash helmets and fireproof overalls. Thereafter Les lived in Hong Kong, pursuing Far East import-export interests, but returned to Kent in the 1990s.