David Leslie, 1953-2008

May 1, 2008

David Leslie, the champion racing-car driver who died in a plane crash on 30 March, was well known to fans of motorsport. But he has been less celebrated for his role at Swansea Metropolitan University, where he was a lecturer on the motorsport management degree.

"He was quite aware that he was a hero as a racing driver but he managed that well (in the lecture theatre)," said Alan Hughes, senior lecturer and programme director for the degree.

"He was articulate, intelligent and likeable, but also very firm with the students because that is what the industry is like; if you don't get results you lose your job." Mr Hughes recalled Mr Leslie's ringing a student who had missed a lecture to admonish him, much to the awe of the student's friends, who could not believe he was being telephoned by a top racing driver.

"Since David's tragic death, a lot of students have e-mailed me and said what a contribution he made to the programme," Mr Hughes said.

Mr Leslie, who was a top-level competitor in touring cars - he won nine races in the British championship, finishing second overall in 1999 - was invited to Swansea Met by his friend Roger Dowden, head of the university's School of Automotive Engineering.

They met over a decade ago at Silverstone when they were both involved in racing. For three years, Mr Leslie commuted from his home in Oxford to Swansea to teach. "He was a real gentleman, always willing to have a chat," Mr Dowden said. "He had no airs or graces and would always talk to people."

Mr Dowden said that the students listened to him because of his experience. He used his contacts in top-level motorsport to organise numerous trips for students including visits to Silverstone, Prodrive and Ricardo Motorsport. A fortnight ago, a group went to Honda F1's base on a trip that had been organised by Mr Leslie.

He also nurtured racing talent via the racing team that he ran with his father, helping Formula One drivers David Coulthard and Allan McNish as well as Dario Franchitti, a recent winner of the Indy 500 race in the US.

Mr Leslie also owned several older racing cars including a Lola, which he was rebuilding, and a Formula Ford. He had raced the Formula Ford when younger and sold it, later buying it back from its surprised owner who did not realise its famous connections.

Mr Leslie died in Farnborough, Kent, on 30 March when the private plane he was in crashed into a house. He had been on his way to France to test a Jaguar for a team run by his friend Richard Lloyd, who also died in the crash.

He is survived by his wife and two sons.


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