Leith impresses at Donington Park
Isles racing driver Kristian Leith narrowly missed out on a podium finish at Donington Park at the weekend, but was still handed a trophy in recognition of his driving skills.
Scalloway man Leith suffered a set-back in qualifying on Saturday when the tailgate of his Alfa Romeo 145 flew open after receiving a rear-end dunt.
The glitch meant Leith qualified last on the grid, but he did well to make up the lost time in Sunday’s first race of two, moving rapidly through the pack in changeable conditions to a respectable sixth position.
In race two he moved further forward still, getting from sixth to third place. That would have secured him a place on the podium had he held his position, but he started lagging and fell back to fifth.
Leith still did not go away empty-handed, however. At a post-race prize-giving ceremony he was presented with the coveted “driver of the weekend” trophy, normally reserved for the top classes among racing drivers.
The experience adds another string to Leith’s bow as he progresses through the racing season after signing a deal with the British Racing and Sports Car Club’s Alfa Romeo team.
The weekend was Leith’s second outing in the high-powered 145 2.0 Twin Spark, which has been clocked at more than 160 mph.
It follows early success last month when he raced in the team for the first time at Silverstone.
His position behind the wheel of the Alfa marks a significant step forward from last year when Leith was racing his own Fiesta XR2, predominantly at the Knockhill racing circuit in Fife.
“In qualifying, I went out and got two laps in, but somebody went off and the qualifying session was red-flagged to clear debris from the track.
“I went back out and only got a couple of laps in. The tyres were only getting warm, and the boot flew open.
“So I got flagged to come back into the pits and ended up qualifying last place on the grid.
“On Sunday I went from 11th to 6th in race one. But by race two I had put absolutely everything I had into the first race. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I went from sixth to third, but I didn’t have the stamina I needed so I went from third to fifth.
“But I went to the prize-giving ceremony and got the ‘driver of the weekend’ trophy. Usually that’s reserved for the top classes and the racing elite.”
The race had a special poignancy for Leith, coming as it did exactly a year after his father, well-known character Robbie Leith, died.
“It was the first year anniversary of my old man passing away, so that gave me a bit of extra fire in my belly.”
The signs are Leith could go ever further in future races to claim the chequered flag.
He may soon be seen at the Spa endurance race in Belgium – and possibly a similar event in Portugal – should he be able to secure crucial sponsorship, which he is still actively seeking.
In the meantime, he has reserved a place on his car for a sticker highlighting the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, a charity which supports families of young children who are brought in to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
The charity proved its worth after Leith’s baby son, Kyle, who was born in February, was treated in the hospital’s intensive care unit for a serious virus and bacterial infection.
Back on the track, all eyes are turning to Oulton Park’s international circuit, where Leith will next compete on 31st May.