Gerry Marshall was a British saloon car racing driver, considered by many to be one of the best drivers of all time. His professional driving career spanned four decades, scoring his first win in 1964 at the wheel of a Mini and chalking up his 600th win in a race at Snetterton in an Aston Martin DB4 in 2000.
Gerald Dallas Royston Marshall was the eldest of three brothers. His father, Albert, owned a chain of Builder's merchants in North London and used to race MG's when time and finance permitted. It was through him that Gerry gained his love of cars and motor racing. The family were displaced from North London by the Second World War, and Gerry spent his formative years in Cambridgeshire, where farm machinery stoked his fascination with things mechanical.
After a stint working in the family business it became clear that the retail business wasn't his forte and he went on to work with Martin Lilley at the Barnet Motor Company.
Unfortunately Albert had an accident at Snetterton in 1959 and this turned him against racing. So Gerry’s first competition event was without his parents knowlege.
Despite his parents continued disapproval of his obsession with motor sport, Marshall took up racing officially in 1964 and he scored a maiden victory at Snetterton, Norfolk, in a one-litre Mini.
Over the years Gerry raced many and numerous cars, ranging from 1950s Formula One cars like the Aston DBR4 and V16 BRM, to Le Mans cars including Ferrari 250 GTOs, AC Cobras, Lola T70 and Porsche 962. He also raced an Alvis Grey Lady, a TVR Tuscan, a Morris Marina and a Ford P100!
In 1971 he won the Escort Mexico championship, beating future Formula 1 World Champion Jody Scheckter and he finished 2nd in the 1974 Avon Tour of Britain driving for the same team as the equally respected rally driver Roger Clark, who won the event.
In 1975, he began his association with "Baby Bertha" - a 5.0 V8-powered Firenza built around the running gear left over from "Big Bertha", a Vauxhall Ventora that Marshall wrote off following a brake failure at Silverstone. Rarely beaten, Marshall scored 51 outright victories between 1972 and 1974 and was twice winner of the Forward Trust Saloon Car Championship he also took back-to-back Tricentrol Super Saloon titles with "Baby Bertha" in 1975 and 1976.
He achieved his most significant international result in the 1977 Spa 24 Hours, when he won his class and finished second overall at the wheel of a Magnum shared with the late great Peter Brock. However at the end of the season Vauxhall terminated its racing programme in order to focus on rallying.
He was considered by many to be one of the best drivers of all time. His professional driving career spanned four decades and in 2000 he chalked up his 600th win in a race at Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit, Norfolk in an Aston Martin DB4.
Marshall, whose figure did not suggest he was a man who turned down pudding, believed in partying as hard as he raced. He might have made a formidable grand prix driver had he been born 15 years earlier, and thus might have driven front-engined Formula One cars that did not require drivers to be as sleek as the chassis. He will always be remembered for his flamboyant and crowd-pleasing style. His sideways, on-the-edge cornering 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.
Gerry died from a heart related illness whilst testing the ex-Richard Petty Penske built IROC Camaro at Silverstone on the 21st April 2005. He remained in full control of the car and was on a hot lap when it happened. He gracefully pulled to the outside of Luffield in front of the BRDC suite, where he had spent much of his time. A true professional to the end, he thought of the car and the safety of those around him and had flicked off the fuel pumps and cut off switches.