Motorsport stars David Leslie and Richard Lloyd died in this week's Kent plane crash. Ben Oliver pays tribute.
Each man enjoyed four decades at the heroic end of British motorsport. Leslie (pictured on right) took his first karting title at 16, banged wheels with Nigel Mansell in single seaters in the Seventies and was a star of the British touring car scene in its nineties pomp.
We’ll forgive Lloyd (pictured on left) his early career managing Cliff Richard in the sixties; as a racer and team manager his class wins in saloon cars in the seventies, his mastery of the terrifying Porsche 956 in the Eighties and his more recent Le Mans campaigns with Audi and Bentley more than made up for it. But his sense of showbiz didn’t desert him; Lloyd is the guy who ran Sit Stirling Moss in an Audi in the BTCC in 1980.
Death on the racetrack is comparatively rare now by comparison with the bad old days; the motorsport industry deserves credit for the leaps it has made in safety. It seems doubly tragic that two men who survived the scythe that cut through racers when their careers were starting should perish in an air crash, and tragic too that aviation should inflict such a heavy toll on British motorsport.
Air crashes: a common occurrence in motorsport?
In total, five died in yesterday's crash that claimed Leslie and Lloyd, including a mechanic, the heroic pilot and one other as yet unidentified by the police. Five also died in the plane crash that claimed Graham Hill in 1975; helicopter accidents have claimed the lives of motorcycle racer Steve Hislop and Colin McRae, and nearly cost us David Richards in the same weekend we lost McRae.
Pretty much anyone who has been around British motorsport will have met Lloyd or Leslie, and remember them fondly. CAR contributing editor Ben Whitworth shared a car with David in a 24-hour endurance race and found him passionate about cars of any kind, and modest about his immense abilities as a driver.
I was first introduced to Richard in the car park of a Le Mans hotel in the early hours of the morning as he prepared to bring Bentley back to the world’s most famous race; he looked exhausted but his enthusiasm for the sport we love was still infectious. Both will be sadly, sorely missed, and CAR’s condolences go their families and friends.
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