Features SMRC

David Leslie Trophy needs to be Scottish FF1600’s turning point

To mark 50 years of Scottish FF1600, the Scottish Motor Racing Club at Knockhill is planning a rather special celebration at next month’s bumper two-day meeting.

The David Leslie Trophy, with its triple-header format, is the most important round of the Scottish FF1600 season. It’s the one every driver and team want to win.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the Scottish FF1600 grids have struggled for numbers in recent years. That this year’s field has been reduced to just six full-time entries following the withdrawal of Graham Brunton Racing’s karting graduate Cameron Thomson last week, is a sad situation for the championship to be in.

What it also says is that the David Leslie Trophy is in desperate need of a healthy grid to give a man who helped kick-start the careers of many a Scottish driver when previous few others did, a proper tribute.

Last year’s DLT was arguably the best in recent years with 2019 runaway championship leader Jordan Gronkowski giving double champion Ross Martin his sternest challenge of the season.

This year, the racing behind Gronkowski has been equally fraught with a strong mix of youth and experience duking it out in often breathtaking fashion. The ingredients are certainly there for an epic 2019 edition.

But just who is going to take part? That’s a tricky question to answer until said drivers and teams confirm. We know that Kevin Mills Racing, who made a one-off appearance last weekend with Michael Macpherson and 2016 Scottish champion Neil Maclennan, will not be there. The team has instead prioritised its National campaign by competing in the clashing Champions of Brands meeting.

But there are positive messages coming from key figures inside the paddock which give viewing spectators some hope at least.

Despite losing Thomson from its line-up, GBR remains confident it can fill the three cars in the Knockhill-based team’s garage. Who those drivers will be is unclear, but the SMRC’s Business Development Manager Rory Bryant and GBR team boss Graham Brunton have been working hard to attract the services of past FF1600 champions to turn out for the event.

The optimism continued to build at last weekend’s third SMRC, as Cloan Motorsport fielded its Ray car for the first time since the back-end of 2017, when Clay Mitchell drove.

Racing rookie Glenn Alcock, of SuperfastScots fame, got his first taste of FF1600 and speaking to team boss Adrian Haldane at the weekend, the team is keen to not only take part in the DLT, but complete the season.

And then what’s not to say that past champion Ciaran Haggerty will not make a one-off return, having done so in a Mygale last September?

Then there’s 2016 runner-up Jamie Thorburn, who while set to race a handful more National rounds, did compete at the opening Scottish meeting in April. The possibilities are endless, but until people commit to making it a successful event, this is all just talk.

Against tradition this year, unfortunately, is the news that Jane Leslie – David’s widow – will not be making the trip up to Fife, but she remains as staunch a supporter of the event named after her husband’s prolific career, and willingness to give a foot-up to the likes of Allan McNish, Dario Franchitti and David Coulthard.

David’s 1978 title-winning Royale RP24 was on display outside the GBR garage last weekend and it made me think about what he would think of a packed grid in his honour come July. A mixture of pride and profound humility no doubt.

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