Renowned automotive industry executive and Formula E team chief Martin Leach has passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 59.
Leach was most recently president of NextEV – a startup technology company that designs and develops high-performance electric vehicles – and ran its Formula E team since last season.
Leach first joined the team as a sponsor, just before it claimed the first-ever FIA Formula E title with Nelson Piquet Jr. He then took over the operation during a difficult season two, and then pressed ahead on its season three machine that took pole position first time out in Hong Kong in Piquet's hands.
“Martin was such a passionate guy about this sport,” said Piquet. “He put so much time, effort and heart into it. The first time I met him was towards the end of season one, when he decided to sponsor our team.
“He started to take it over in season two, but despite our tough times he said ‘Nelson, don’t you worry, I’m going to do everything to make us successful again’ – and that was the reason I stayed at NextEV, and we built a pretty good relationship. He was so positive.
“He was so hard working, he knew everything that was going on, from design through the materials of the gearbox, the inverter – all the time he was working, I could reach him any time day or night. I was very lucky and very proud to work with him in this short time.
“In Hong Kong we got the pole position for him and his car, and more than ever I want to continue his legacy and win more races and championships for Martin. We are here right now, all the structures and people, because of Martin’s skills and vision.
“I feel honoured to have worked with Doctor Martin Leach, and it’s a big loss for everybody. He wasn’t just a team boss, he was there for all of us. I hope we can go further, and I’m just so sad this has happened. I wish the best sentiments to his family at this hard time. We will work harder than ever for Martin.”
An illustrious automotive career
Leach’s automotive career spanned 40 years, following on from a spell as a professional kart racer in his teenage years. In 1979 he joined Ford as a highly-qualified engineer, and 20 years later had risen to become its Corporate Officer.
By 2002 he was appointed President of Ford Europe, although his long association with the Blue Oval ended in acrimonious fashion a year later.
He became CEO of Maserati for a spell, although his next motorsport involvement was an attempted deal to save the Super Aguri F1 team in 2008 via his Magma International firm, but this failed to materialise when a backer pulled out.
He was awarded a Doctor of Science from the University of Hertfordshire in 2000.
A statement from NextEV's William Li
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.
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.