David Leslie was an up-and-coming single-seater driver who dominated the Formula Ford 2000 and Atlantic races I watched as a child. He was a sports car and touring car front-liner during my early days as a race reporter. And, in recent years, he was a fellow journalist and dinner companion. Yet my abiding memory of Leslie, who died in a plane crash along with Richard Lloyd (right) last month, will be of someone so passionate about motor sport.
That’s why Leslie had no regrets about earning a fraction of the salary of one of his British Touring Car Championship team-mates in the late 1990s; why he ran a team with his father, David Sr, that played a role in the early careers of a generation of Scottish racing drivers; why he restored and raced his old Formula Ford 1600 Royale; why he continued to race into his mid-fifties in national series that many of his former tin-top rivals would have considered beneath them; and why he was part of Eurosport’s World Touring Car Championship commentary team on spare weekends.
Leslie’s love of our sport couldn’t mask a great talent, which would have undoubtedly taken him higher but for a late start and a lack of funds. He didn’t graduate from karts until he was 22, but went on to win 30 FF1600 races in that Royale RP24 in his second year of car racing in 1977. He dominated the British FF2000 series two seasons later and Formula Atlantic the year after that.
There was no money for a proper crack at F3, though he did famously outqualify Ayrton Senna at Silverstone in 1983 at the wheel of the unfashionable Magnum chassis. Leslie also raced in Formula 1, albeit in the Aurora-sponsored British series.
That lack of funds led to a classic career switch into the world of sports cars and touring cars. He was called up by the revived Ecurie Ecosse team to race one of its new Group C2 prototypes in the 1984 Le Mans 24 Hours and went on to play a pivotal role in Ecosse’s victory in the C2 teams’ championship two years later.
Leslie went on to drive for Aston Martin and Jaguar before his touring car career took off. He won nine BTCC races over a seven-year period with Vauxhall (run by Ecurie Ecosse), Honda and Nissan (above) and finally fulfilled the talent that had been so evident when I first watched him race at Brands Hatch in the late ’70s.
Leslie is survived by his wife Jane and sons Graham and James.
The death of Richard Lloyd has robbed us of an underrated driver, an innovative team patron, and a true enthusiast. The huge turnout at his funeral was testimony to the respect and affection in which he was held.
Until motor racing took over his life Richard worked in the music business, initially as a producer at Decca and later as part of Cliff Richard’s management. He worked in the studio with the likes of Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Jimmy Page, hung out with the then unknown composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and even dated Lulu. He never cut his ties with the industry, retaining many friends.
A course at Motor Racing Stables whetted Lloyd’s appetite for speed. His first serious outings were in a Triumph Spitfire in 1967, but he really made his name running a Chevrolet Camaro in the early ’70s.
Always on the lookout for something different, he introduced the VW Golf GTi to British racing in 1977. He won three BTCC class titles, and through his GTi Engineering business, helped to give the hot hatch its classic status. In 1980 he switched to Audi and pulled off a PR coup by luring Stirling Moss out of retirement.
A Porsche 924GTR and backing from Canon provided a way into sports cars, and in 1983 Lloyd became one of the first 956 customers. He was the first privateer to seriously develop the car, building his own chassis. RLR took four World Championship race wins (and a second at Le Mans) before the end of Group C forced him to close the team in 1990.
In ’96 Lloyd returned to prominence running the Audi BTCC team. That led to an involvement with Audi at Le Mans in ’99, after which he instigated the historic return of Bentley. Sadly by the time the car won outright in 2003 Lloyd had been shuffled out by an ungrateful German management.
He had worked hard to overcome that bitter setback, and at the time of his death it seemed that Apex Motorsport’s Jaguar XKR GT3 programme was finally coming together.
Quietly spoken and always modest, Lloyd was an inspiring person who made friends easily. Motor Sport offers its condolences to his wife Philippa and their three daughters, Sophie, Chloe and Amy.