Just over 15 years ago, we lost a legend, albeit one that perhaps, you didn’t know that well.
Gerald Dallas Royston Marshall, even his name is Rockstar cool, and one totally befitting the man, almost with an aptronymic beauty.
As a youth, cars were never really my thing, I much preferred two-wheels over four, but a sort of chance encounter/job offer changed all of that, and led me to working with the great Gerry Marshall.
As a wet-nosed 17-year-old, I managed to wangle my way into a job at a much-respected motorcycle tuning company – NCK Racing. I lasted just less than a year before being given my marching orders; I was too interested in being a 17-year-old with money in my pocket, and shite between my ears.
A few years after being let go, I found myself back at the company, wanting to give it another go. “Have you f***ing grown up yet son?” asked my former boss.
Along with the bike tuning, they were now responsible for the delivery of tuned Rover V8 engines to TVR Engineering Ltd, for the use in the Chimaera and Griffith sports cars. NCK Racing branched off, and the rest of the business became TVR Power Ltd.
I initially started off as a cylinder head porter, ‘gas flowing’ all manner of cylinder heads, be they bike or car, but that’s not a job for someone that wanted to go places; most of the porters there were very slightly challenged in the mental capacity department.
I worked my way up the company – gas flowing, machine shop, short engine builder, specialist engine builder … anything that was out of the ordinary came to me.
Dunlop TVR Tuscan Challenge Championship
In the early to mid-90s, we ran five Tuscan Challenge cars in the hotly contested championship, and through the main factory, ‘celebrity’ drivers all had a go at one time or another … Nigel Mansell, Tim ‘The Grinner’ Harvey, Tiff Needell; Tim Harvey was quoted as saying that he drove in the BTCC for a living, but raced the Tuscan for fun.
Although we were part of the factory, we weren’t racing as ‘the factory’, but we still managed to get some great drivers through the door, including Chris Hodgetts and Mark Hales. In fact, we won the championship in 1994(?) with Mark Hales driving.
One of the cars was sponsored by Barnet TVR, and essentially it was shared between two greats: Chris Hodgetts and Gerry Marshall.
I’d heard of Chris, but had no clue as to who Gerry was … a bit old (he’d have been mid-50s at the time), looking like he’d been poured into his race suit (very apt given his propensity & skills for drinking beer), but down to earth, and I soon learnt, very fast, and very sideways. Our team manager was made up that Gerry was driving for us.
I have a few memories of Gerry, all of them great.
He liked a drink, he could drive the wheels off anything, he was BRAVE, and committed, but hard on the cars – we probably went through more motors than ever in that year.
The first real memory of Gerry’s driving came at Cadwell. Most of the drivers were getting a little ‘squirrelly’ coming off the top of the mountain, clearly with some commitment, and then along comes Gerry, fully four wheels in the air, landing slightly crossed up and leaving huge black lines. And it wasn’t just the occasional time; every single lap, Gerry would be airborne and on the power before he’d even touched down. NFG. (No F***s Given).
Car problems saw Gerry start from the back of the grid at Oulton Park, dead last.
When the lights went out, it was like the parting of the waves … drivers were almost pulling out of his way to let him through; he couldn’t have cut through the traffic better if he’d have had flashing blue lights on his car. By the first corner he was around third place, and by the end of lap one, he was running at the front.
The last memory I’ll share here is a personal one.
Gerry was known for being a bit of a ladies man, likes a drink, and could charm the birds from the trees. As a young twenty-something, I was in awe. Come the end of the season, there’s always a posh do for all of the teams, drivers, crew, and this year was no different.
Gerry turned up looking all dapper, suave & sophisticated, a young lady on his arm. I was there with my girlfriend who’d recently been on a health kick, she looked a million dollars, and Gerry obviously thought so too … after sidling up to me, he whispered “F*** me, you don’t fancy swapping do you?”.
Of course there was an element of joking with the comment, but it made my night. (And the girlfriend was pretty chuffed too).
Gerry Marshall Awards
In the August 2019 edition of the Motorsport News, Gerry was voted as the UK’s number one motorsport hero.
Awarded the BARC Gold Medal in 2002 (first saloon car driver to ever be awarded it).
Over 625 overall and class wins, in numerous championships, with countless championships to his name.
Gerry passed away at the wheel of a race car on 21st April 2005. I’ll never forget the time I had with him.