David Leslie

By Tremayne, David | The Independent (London, England), April 1, 2008 | Go to article overview
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David Leslie

Tremayne, David, The Independent (London, England)

Talented racing driver

'Racing comes first." How often did we tease David Leslie about those words, among the first he ever spoke to his wife-to-be, Jane? And he would smile in that impish who, me? manner of his, then happily reiterate them. Racing came first, to the very end, because David Leslie was a racer.

Born in Annan, Dumfriesshire in 1953, he raced karts as a kid, inspired by the example of his father, David senior, who had himself competed with distinction. Five times David junior was Scotland's champion, before he switched to Formula Ford 1600s. Racing against the likes of Nigel Mansell, he won the Formula Ford title in 1978 and went on to dominate Formula Ford 2000 in 1979. His mileage every season was astronomical as he travelled from Carlisle, where the family garage business was based, to race circuits across the UK. He thought nothing of it, and was always ready for work after another successful weekend at the wheel.

His talent took him into Formula Three in 1981 with a Hope Scott Ralt, and despite a minuscule budget he was only narrowly beaten by Belgium's Thierry Tassin at Thruxton in March. Elsewhere he was competitive until the money ran out, whereupon Eddie Jordan snapped him up.

Driving for the little Magnum team in 1983 he so upset an upcoming Ayrton Senna by taking pole position ahead of him for the opening round at Silverstone, that the Brazilian was convinced he must be cheating. Anyone who got behind Leslie's famed monosyllabic reserve, however, quickly came to appreciate his inherent sense of fair play.

He raced with distinction for Ecurie Ecosse, Jaguar and Aston Martin in long-distance sportscar racing, where his consistency and ability to extract performance from the car without overtaxing it mechanically made him a highly valued commodity.

Leslie moved into the British Touring Car Championship in 1990, and went on to race with distinction for Ecurie Ecosse's Vauxhall team in 1992, with Mazda in 1994 and Honda from 1995 to 1996. In that latter season he won the British Grand Prix support meeting and had such a strong second half that he leapt to fourth place overall in the championship standings. He turned to Nissan for 1997, and deserved much of the credit for massaging their Primera into a competitive proposition for 1998.

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