NextEV FE chief Martin Leach dies after battle with cancer

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Dr. Martin Leach, the co-founder and co-president of electric vehicle start-up NextEV and chief of its Formula E team, has died at the age of 59 following a battle with cancer.

In a career in the automotive industry that spanned five decades, Leach held senior roles at Ford, Mazda and Maserati, as well as engaging in a bid to buy and save the Super Aguri Formula 1 operation in 2008.

Leach joined NextEV in early 2015, becoming its co-president, and helped oversee Nelson Piquet Jr.’s drivers’ championship success in Formula E in the summer of 2015, linking up with Team China Racing.

NextEV endured a difficult second campaign in Formula E, prompting Leach to oversee widespread changes in the operation ahead of the all-electric series’ third season.

Piquet and teammate Oliver Turvey scored a one-two in qualifying in Hong Kong three weeks ago, marking a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for the team.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, NextEV founder and president William Li announced that Leach had died earlier in the day.

“With the deepest grief, I have to announce that we have lost a great friend, a leader and a founding member and Co-President of NextEV, Dr. Martin Leach, who left us today after fighting illness over the past few months,” Li wrote.

“I came to know Martin in October 2014. I was impressed by his achievements in the industry, and I was deeply touched by his passion in sharing my vision of creating a totally new experience for automobile users. Since then, Martin had participated in every step of the NextEV journey.

“In the early days, Martin supported me in creating an excellent leadership team, shaping the company’s value and defining our products, which set the foundation of NextEV.

“Martin continued to lead our performance programmes and, under his leadership, NextEV achieved the inaugural drivers championship title in the FIA Formula E Championship and our supercar will be seen by the world soon.

“Martin is a true warrior and lived to the highest standard. Even during his last minutes, he was still caring about the progress of NextEV. I am honoured to have had Martin as a partner. His loss is a great loss to all of us, his legacy will stay forever with NextEV. His dedication and his vision will continue to inspire our people to create our history.

“We will honour Martin with our very best contribution and by completing his mission.

“Together, we at NextEV send our sincere condolences to Martin’s family.

“May racing be with you in heaven, Martin.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)