Paula Marshall became interested in drag racing in 1986, attending races with a group of family and friends including then-boyfriend Ian Marshall whom she later married. Paula and Ian soon volunteered to work at events at Santa Pod Raceway and starting in 1989 Paula filled almost every possible role at the track, from working in the Signing On office at both race events and Run What You Brungs, to marshalling in the pairing lanes and collection area, to working on the fire crew. She started to race at the 1996 Cannonball at Santa Pod Raceway, making test runs in Jon Webster’s Comet before driving her own car, the Highlander Camaro, in Super Gas.
In 1998 Paula became Secretary of Santa Pod Racers Club. At that point she had no experience of the organisation of UK and European Championship events but she was a quick learner and equally quickly earned the respect of racers and authorities both for her efficiency and for a no-nonsense approach which became legendary. In a sport in which many people think that they know everything, Paula genuinely did know everything. Whether obscure questions about rules, or queries from UK racers wishing to compete overseas or overseas racers wishing to compete here, Paula knew the form and was always ready to inform, to assist, and to deliver.
Paula played a leading role in the formation of the current UK National Drag Racing Championship, whose first season was contested in 1999, forging links between Clubs whose relationship had historically been uneasy. The UK National Championship is administered by Santa Pod Racers Club and as well as working on regulations and paperwork on behalf of both SPRC and APIRA, she also organised the annual UK National Championships Dinner Dance. She was one of the first to realise the potential of the internet and in 1999 set a precedent for providing event entry lists and notices to racers for publication on-line.
Paula continued to race until the end of the 2000 season before stepping out of the car to have daughter Holley, who now races and who also assists Ian both with SPRC administration and marshalling at race events. Paula returned to the track when Holley was a few years old to contest a few events in Super Modified before finally hanging up her firesuit and concentrating on her duties as Club Secretary.
Paula was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2011, and although she faced up to the disease with her characteristic toughness she passed away on the evening of 6th January 2013. There were tributes from all over the planet to the Club Secretary, the racer, the wife, the mother, the daughter, the sister, and the friend. The sport as a whole in the UK and Europe, and all of us as individuals, will be forever in debt to Paula Marshall for her hard work, for her friendship, and for the lifetime of dedication and service to the sport for which she is inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Profile by Andy ‘Tog’ Rogers