The David Leslie Trophy. Since it's inception to honour the late, great Scottish motorsport hero himself, it has been the jewel in the crown of the Scottish Formula Ford season. The race that every driver on the grid wants to win above all others, Jordan likened it to the Monaco Grand Prix in that respect. Having won the trophy in 2013, the team have come close on another two occasions since and it was no secret that they were going to give it their all in 2019.
In the build-up to the weekend, Matt Cowley was announced as a guest driver for the GBR team and although the double UK and US FF1600 champion and current Aston Martin European GT4 driver wouldn't take points in the championship, he would be tough opposition for the coveted trophy itself.
Qualifying got underway on Saturday afternoon (following Friday evening and Saturday morning practice sessions on this extended three-race weekend) under cloudy skies but with the earlier torrential rain thankfully dried-up. The team immediately set about their work, holding the fastest lap for the entirety of the session and claiming their third pole position of 2019, but only by 0.222 from Cowley, with Kenny Cowie and Neil Broome close by, a further tenth of a second back in 3rd and 4th respectively.
"We've lost a couple of tenths in lap time from this morning's dry run which is bit of a mystery"
"I'm very happy to be on pole obviously!" Said Jordan. "But I'm not that happy at all with how the car felt. We've lost a couple of tenths in lap time from this morning's dry run which is bit of a mystery and if we don't get that back for the race it's going to be very tough. Time to put the thinking caps on!"
Race 1 began in earnest with Gronkowski and Cowley immediately locking horns as the pair went side-by-side into Duffus for the first time. Cowley led down the hill and through Leslie's, but Gronkowski snuck back up the inside into McIntyre's to re-take the lead. However, Cowley was again on the attack into the Hairpin and although Gronkowski saw-off the challenge on the exit, the GBR driver won the drag-race to turn one, this time sealing the move. Gronkowski then had his hands full with Cowie and Broome, with the three going wheel-to-wheel through the hairpin the next time around as Cowley made a break for it at the front. Gronkowski kept his nose ahead and, with Broome and Cowie squabbling, managed to break-free from the pack and set-off after Cowley.
On lap four, Gronkowski set the fastest lap, following it up with another on lap five and he was on Cowley's gearbox. The pair spent the remainder of the race almost glued together, pulling away from the pack whilst dicing constantly. The hairpin was where most of the action took place, with Cowley expertly defending the inside every lap and forcing Gronkowski to the outside. On the final lap, Gronkowski made the deepest lunge yet around the outside, exiting alongside Cowley but the latter had the advantage on the drag-race to the line, taking the win by just 0.106 seconds.
"What a fantastic race!" Said Jordan afterwards. "It's obviously disappointing not to convert pole to the win but I had such great fun out there, first against Kenny and Neil and then for the second half of the race with Matt - we were wheel-to-wheel multiple times but I never felt any threat that he would do anything silly and hopefully the feeling was mutual. You almost don't mind coming second when the race is that much fun!"
Race 2 took place on Sunday morning, but the weather was similar to Saturday - as was the racing. If the crowd had enjoyed race 1 however, they were in for even more of a treat this time as the team's overnight analysis had resulted in some setup tweaks which gave Jordan the edge over more of the lap than on the previous day.
The battle resumed almost immediately between the lead pair as they again streaked clear of the chasing pack. This time both ends of the circuit enjoyed wheel-to-wheel racing as the pair expertly weaved their way inches apart and side-by-side through Duffus, McIntyre's, Clarks and the hairpin on multiple occasions. Gronkowski tried every angle at every corner in an attempt to pass, even gaining the lead around the outside of the hairpin on the final lap before once again losing out in an even closer photo-finish drag race to the line - this time the winning margin for Cowley was just 0.074 seconds as Gronkowski again took the fastest lap.
"I'm really happy with the improvements we've made to the car today"
"Another amazing race." was Jordan's response. "I'm really happy with the improvements we've made to the car today though - we talked about things over dinner last night and then pored over the data before bed and made a couple of decisions which have definitely put us back where we should be pace-wise. I think we can safely say we have the fastest package over a lap at the moment, but Matt has the legs on us out of the hairpin and, unfortunately for us, in a race situation that is what counts around here. I tried pretty much everything at every corner but I think we'll have to get even more inventive in the last race if we want to get by! He is driving so amazingly well and the battles we're having are fantastic to be a part of."
Race 3, the David Leslie Trophy Race itself, was scheduled as the first one after the lunch break. The public were given access to the cars on the grid pre-race in an F1-style grid walk, which also hosted a champions photoshoot, where past-Scottish champions assembled on the grid along with David Leslie's original formula ford car in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Formula Ford in Scotland.
The race itself started very tense, building slowly to the greatest crescendo possible. At the start, Cowley initially took a commanding lead, with Gronkowski fending off Broome in the early stages. Gronkowski's pace then started to come to the fore as he slowly but surely reeled-in the leader, setting the fastest laps of the weekend in the process. By lap 8 the leaders had resumed their nose-to-tail positions and the battle was rejoined in earnest.
Gronkowski again piled the pressure onto Cowley at every opportunity, darting into a gap whenever one emerged, but as before the GBR driver was stoic in his defense. As the laps ticked-down, the odd puff of tyre smoke under braking from Cowley stated to show as the pair tested the extreme limits of their cars. On the penultimate lap, Gronkowski tried a last-ditch attempt to take the lead, switching from the outside to the inside late at the hairpin and mounting the kerb but it was to no avail as Cowley held-fast. it looked as though the order was set as the pair entered the final lap but on the run into McIntyre's the unthinkable happened as Cowley locked his brakes and drifted wide into the gravel, allowing Gronkowski to just squeeze by as he rejoined the track. The few car lengths of space were all Gronkowski needed to ensure he had enough at the hairpin to see-off a last-lap dive from Cowley, who then turned his attention to a drag-race to the line with Broome as Gronkowski crossed the line with both arms aloft to clinch the team's second David Leslie Trophy title!
"I've never felt so much emotion in a race car!" Said a visibly exuberant Jordan after the race. "That was absolutely incredible! To think that it [the trophy] was gone going into the last lap and then for it to come back to us like that - I honestly can't put into words what it felt like. I was actually shaking with adrenaline in the last few corners! The cool-down lap was out of this world. The crowd really showed their appreciation for the show we'd put on and I can honestly say I've never experienced anything like that before."
"I have to pay tribute to Matt. To come into the championship like he has done, first time in the car yesterday, and be this quick straight out of the box is amazing and a tribute to just how talented he is."
"There's so much going through my head right now that I can't really put into words but firstly I have to pay tribute to Matt. To come into the championship like he has done, first time in the car yesterday, and be this quick straight out of the box is amazing and a tribute to just how talented he is. I can honestly say I've loved sharing the track with him this whole weekend and I do feel for him after that last lap. On our side I'm so unbelievably grateful to my dad, all of our sponsors, my family, friends and My RaceSpace members, who have all helped to get us to where we are today and to whom this trophy belongs as much as it does to me. I'm just so happy!"
All Photos: Alex Ireland
The David Leslie trophy also included the additional prizes of a full set of tyres for the race car thanks to Avon and half-price entry to the end-of-season Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, thanks to the BRSCC.
Jordan's weekend was further complimented by the completion of another 100% points-haul in the Scottish Championship (25 per win and 1 per fastest lap in each race). With four races and 104 points left to play for, the team have a commanding 96-point lead.
Watch more reaction in the exclusive interview with Jordan, recorded shortly after the post-race celebrations by SuperfastScots, below: