Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Gerry Marshall (b. November 16, 1941 d. April 21, 2005) was a British saloon car racing driver, was considered by many to be one of the best drivers of all time according to a 2002 magazine poll. His professional driving career spans four decades, in 2000 chalking up his 600th win in a race at Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit, Norfolk in an Aston Martin DB4. His first win was in 1964, driving a Mini.
Over the years Gerry raced many and numerous cars, ranging from 1950s Formula One cars (Aston DBR4, V16 BRM) to Le Mans cars (Ferrari 250 GTOs, AC Cobras, Lola T70, Porsche 962), to the extraordinary (Alvis Grey Lady, TVR Tuscan, Morris Marina, Ford P100).
However, he is probably best remembered for his flamboyant and crowd-pleasing style during the 1970s driving for Dealer Team Vauxhall in the racing Firenzas "Old Nail" and "Baby Bertha", and also the V8 Holden-Repco Ventora, "Big Bertha". He also won the 1971 Escort Mexico championship, beating future Formula 1 World Champion Jody Scheckter and finished 2nd in the 1974 Avon Tour of Britain driving for the same team as the equally respected rally driver Roger Clark.
Marshall's style has been described as "sideways, on-the-edge cornering that was to distinguish his driving in any car, large or small, front or rear drive." This outward appearance belied an extraordinary cool-headed ability and intelligence behind the wheel. His biography, published in 1978, is titled Only Here For The Beer and a tribute edition was re-issued shortly after his untimely death.
He died of a heart related illness whilst testing the ex-Richard Petty's IROC Chevrolet Camaro at Silverstone  .
Gerry's first sprint was in a "borrowed" Mini, hired from a car hire company in Wembley. It was sprinted at the weekend before being returned as "well used" car on a Monday morning!! His second sprint was in a fixed-head coupe MGA before finally getting to drive his own car (the A35) in a sprint at Brands Hatch in 1961 in which he was equal first in practice but didn't get to compete as was only first reserve!! Unfortunately the A35 met with a nasty end on the way home from Brands Hatch and was followed swiftly by a beautiful Riley 1.5 that got swapped for the first bona fide racing car, a Mini 997cc Cooper, which he sprinted in late 1963 before finally moving onto racing in 1964, where he entrusted Newtune of Cambridge to prepare and enter it with a 998cc Elf engine..
It was also in 1963 that Gerry started his first footsteps into motor journalism, something he was to enjoy for many years and he brought a smile to face of many readers with his "Marshall Art" and "From the Hot Seat" columns that he regularly used to "write". You could often find club event reports in Autosport with glowing tributes to a Gerry Marshall and then notice at the end of the report that it was written by a certain G.Marshall or G.Maynard (his first wife's maiden name!!).
Gerry's first official race was at Brands Hatch in March 1964 and once again he was quickest in class but the weather (for once) and lady luck conspired against him and the race was snowed off! Therefore Gerry's first proper race was at Snetterton on the Easter Monday of 1964. In true style he won the 1000cc class and continued winning that season (including overturning at Mallory Park in practice!) until money and impending engagement (to Carol) forced the sale of the Mini and retirement from racing for a few month. But not for long……….and that is a story written elsewhere.
For 1965 a 970 Mini-Cooper S was built in partnership with Mike Walton and the car once more ran in Newtune colours. It was tuned to the then Group 2 specification for international races and also to race against the ever increasing home built highly-tweaked Minis in the British club scene.
First time out at a Brands Hatch club meeting Gerry was second in the 1200 cc class but at the opening international meeting, The Race of Champions meeting at Brands, Gerry went off at over 90mph and knocked down several trees (never one to be an eco-warrior). Somehow, Brian Claydon of Newtune, managed to repair the car for the following weekends meeting at Silverstone, but luckily for all the event was rained off. Gerry's best race of the year was undoubtedly at Snetterton, where he was equal fastest practice lap and finished second to Warwick Bank's works car and ahead of John Fitzpatrick's Broadspeed entry. There was also a win at a Mallory Park national and second place at Crystal Palace, in addition to numerous club racing successes.
Mid-season though, the car was sold to Julien Hasler; earlier thanks to Robbie Gordon (then of Newtune), Mike Walton's share of the Mini had been bought out. Gerry then drove Newtune's own 1275S in the Snetterton 500kms with David Warnsborough and drove a steady, sensible race (for once!!) to win the 1300 cc class in the European Saloon Car Championship race.
Up until now Gerry's competitive racing had all been with Minis and like several others he was branded as a Mad Mini Man (e.g. someone who could drive a Mini to its limits, and over, but would be lost behind the wheel of a "conventional" racing car – oh for hindsight!!). Gerry, as usual, thought otherwise and raised a lot of eyebrows when he lapped a lightweight Jaguar E-type quicker than its regular drivers during a test at Silverstone: however, a drive was not forthcoming.
At this time Gerry was working for his father, Albert, in the family-owned hardware shop. A disagreement between them led to Gerry leaving and trying his hand as a salesman at various garages and whilst working in London for Robbie Gordon and James Boothby he was offered a drive in the June of 1965 in a TVR Grantura. Gerry handled this with his usual verve and impressed Martin Lilley of Barnet Motor Company enough for him to offer a drive in a Lotus Elan. Gerry also went to work for the Barnet Motor Company, becoming sales manager.
This change for Gerry proved to be a good one and as the sales manager he got to buy and sell many sports, GT and competition cars. Towards the end of 1965 and at the beginning of 1966 Gerry had a string of wins at Brands Hatch and also drove the company's TVR Griffith. It was reported at the time "This was a converted road car and only had a mildly-tweaked V8 motor, but it still went like stink!". With this car Gerry enhanced his blossoming reputation and photographers rushed out of their usual hiding spots whenever he was on track and got dramatic pictures of Gerry driving the TVR in his now customary sideways fashion. "It was the only way to drive the car" said Gerry, "although the Elan had to be driven neatly".
The sideways technique paid off and at the September national Tholt-y-Will hill-climb (when he should have been at home for the birth of his first child, Tina!!) Gerry covered the tortuous Isle of Man course in a time that would have been credit to a more nimble single-seater and indeed he beat most of them, finishing fifth overall.
Also in 1966 Gerry raced Roy Ensor's 1275 Mini-Cooper S and a near-standard TVR 1800S Mk 3 in marque events, occasionally with success. In the Brands Hatch six hour race the car was very well placed when a wheel fell of with only a few minutes to go: Gerry and co-driver, his great friend Tony Lanfranchi, had got the car extremely well-placed whilst it was wet at the beginning of the race and it was only towards the end of the race when the track started to dry that several more potent cars managed to pass them.
"The meeting Gerry Marshall will want to forget" was the headline Auto News gave for a Brands Hatch sprint in the July. On a wet track Gerry had aquaplaned off the circuit at Paddock Hill Bend and pretty much wrote of the Barnet Motor Company's Elan, which had only been raced a handful of times. Gerry didn't let this worry him and just a week later, with a couple of broken ribs strapped up, Gerry raced a TVR at Silverstone in the Six-Hour Relay Race and probably wished he hadn't of, as he lost a wheel, twice!
All in all 1966 was a successful year for Gerry. He won numerous club races and gained a massive amount of publicity for the Barnet Motor Company. With Martin Lilley now being in charge of TVR Engineering (him and his father had rescued TVR from bankruptcy) Gerry's racing plans for 1967 seemed to naturally revolve around TVR, the TVR Griffith seemingly ideal, especially with the planned 400bhp 5.3 litre Ford V8, the possibility of the 1-litre TVR Tina (named after Gerry's eldest daughter and one of the two prototypes is owned by the Marshall family), the TVR 18010S a Lotus Elan and there was also a plan to go into partnership with Ken Ayres in a hot Mini 850.
Gerry also wanted to prove his "sideways" critics wrong by racing a single-seater and in one of the Motor Racing Stables Lotus cars at Brands Hatch he had already lapped as fast as the senior instructors (I'm sure that cost Lanfranchi a beer or two!!).
Whatever Gerry was due to drive in 1967, you could be sure that he'd be thoroughly enjoying himself. As reported in Sporting Motorist "Gerry Marshall really gets to grips with his motor cars and flings them about with such gay abandon that people expect him to fly off the road – he has been named the Jochen Rindt of club racing, also the Mr. Dunlop Benefit (by commentator Barry Simons) but he rarely does and more often than not wins".
As we all know, 1967 was the beginning of the Vauxhall relationship and not wanting to go over what's written in Only Here for the Beer I hope we have provided a little bit more information about Gerry's beginnings in motorsport and his racing in the 1960s.
Posted by bushganizer258 at 8:16 AM