© Getty Images

NextEV FE chief Martin Leach dies after battle with cancer

Leave a comment

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.”

IMSA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration: Why Sebring is so special to Bobby Rahal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bobby Rahal has driven in some of the biggest races in the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 Hours and, of course, winning the Indianapolis 500 as a driver in 1986 and in 2004 as a team owner.

But winning the 12 Hours of Sebring two years in a row (1987 and 1988), Rahal feels, is right up there in terms of his greatest accomplishments as a race car driver.

As IMSA celebrates its 50th anniversary, Rahal reflected on what racing at Sebring International Raceway has meant to him:

“To me, Sebring is the ultimate endurance race. Not as long as Daytona or Le Mans, but the demands put on a car and driver at Sebring are highly unusual.

“My father raced at Sebring in the late 60’s. To win that race two years in a row really meant something to me.

“While we’ve won a lot of other races, we’ve won just about everywhere, you name it. But for me personally, winning at Sebring those two years in a row was very special.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski