As part of Lola Cars 50th Anniversary activities at the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours the Huntingdon-based marque will be staging a fitting tribute to the late sports car driver David Leslie, who tragically died in a plane accident this year that also took the lives of 4 other people. On Friday 13th June David’s son, Graham, will drive his father’s Mark 1 Lola to head the vast array of vintage and classic cars taking part in this year’s Grande Parade des Pilotes, the official parade of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Lola Cars 50th Anniversary will be a central theme at this year’s Grande Parade des Pilotes which is organised by Classic Automotive, the voluntary organisation that has staged the event for the past fourteen years. Tens of thousands of fans will make their annual pilgrimage to watch the official parade of fantastic open-topped historic cars take the endurance racing drivers through the town of Le Mans. The event will provide a suitable setting for the sport to honour David Leslie, whose successful career saw him compete at and, more recently, broadcast from Le Mans for many years.

There are strong links between Lola and the Leslie family. David Leslie’s wife Jane is the daughter of Graham Broadley, who in 1958 helped his cousin Eric Broadley set up Lola cars. Jane will be attending the parade as an honorary guest of Lola to support her son as he leads the procession of cars in the Lola Mk 1, which his father raced at both last year’s Silverstone Classic and the Goodwood Rival. The Mk 1 forms a symbolic part of Lola’s illustrious history in motorsport, it was the first car built by Lola, it was the first ever sports car of any size to lap the Brands Hatch short circuit in under one minute and, in 1960, the Mk 1 took Lola to the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time.

Jane Leslie said, “David loved Le Mans for the sheer challenge it presented whether he was driving or broadcasting. He would be so proud to see his Lola Mk1 driven by his son at the official parade in the centre of Le Mans."

The second car in the parade will be the Lola T70 MkIIIB that Masten Gregory and Jo Bonnier raced at Le Mans in 1969. Whilst the Mk 1 provided Lola with its first taste Le Mans 24 Hours action, the sleek design of the T70 MKIIIB helped cement the marque’s status in world motorsport. The owner of this car, Esmond Smith, will drive in the parade with his son Andrew who won the recent World Sportscar Master rounds at Brands Hatch.

In 2008, Lola continues to gain international recognition as it unleashes the first-ever customer LMP Coupe to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours, putting everything in place to deliver another world-beating sports car. In total Lola has seven cars participating in the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours, comprising three LMP1 and four LMP2 models. it is the marque’s largest entry since 1979.

Martin Birrane, Executive Chairman of Lola, will be joining French Prime Minister François Fillon, ACO President Jean-Claude Plassart and the Mayor of Le Mans Jean-Claude Boulard, to officially open the ceremony. Birrane will be on-hand to present a trophy to the fastest LMP1 and LMP2 Lola car to qualify for this year’s race.

Martin Birrane commented, “The parade has become one of the highlights of the Le Mans 24 Hours and it will be a great honour that Lola’s 50th Anniversary will be credited at such a high profile occasion. Whilst the event will be a wonderful celebration of Lola’s 50 years in motorsport, we also felt it was an important opportunity for the company to pay tribute to David Leslie. As well as owning his own Lola, David was a great ambassador and avid supporter of motorsport in every sphere. Everyone associated with Lola and the motorsport community will always hold a strong affection for him and miss him dearly.”

Lola will be aiming for a record fifth consecutive LMP2 class victory and a top finish in the LMP1 category in its 50th anniversary year. With the RML AD Group MG Lola taking the class win in 2005 and 2006, it was an ideal car to showcase Lola’s winning technology and it is the leading image for this year’s official poster of the Grande Parade des Pilotes. The poster features a photograph of the car taken during Round 2 of the 2008 Le Mans Series at Monza, Italy with the team’s three drivers; Mike Newton, Andy Wallace and Thomas Erdos. RML are the reigning Le Mans Series LMP2 champions.

This year’s Grande Parade des Pilotes will take place on Friday 13 June, starting at 18.00 hrs (local time).

About David Leslie.
David Leslie was one of Britain’s best loved racing drivers. He was one the UK’s most promising single seater drivers in the late 1970’s and 1980’s before turning his attention to Sportscars and Touring Cars, both of which disciplines saw him become a firm favourite with the fans and an established race winner. His record at Le Mans includes ten starts and a best finish of 8th in 1987 at the wheel of the Ecosse Ford Cosworth he shared with RML Lola team principal Ray Mallock and Belgian Marc Duez.

In more recent years David was familiar to thousands of Le Mans fans as a knowledgeable and popular commentator, working for both Eurosport and Motors TV.

The Lola Mk1 BR-32 that David immaculately restored. (Picture Gary Hawkins)

Ed McDonagh interviews David Leslie at the Silverstone Classic. (Picture Gary Hawkins)

David in race action with the Lola Mk 1 at last year's Silverstone Classic. (Picture Gary Hawkins)

Another outing for David and the Mk1, this time at Goodwood. (Picture courtesy of the Leslie Family)

David prepares the Mk1 for its first outing following its rebuild. (Picture courtesy of the Leslie Family)

Graham Leslie with the Mk1 at Goodwood. (Picture courtesy of the Leslie Family)