Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Sports-car Champ & Fugitive" John Paul Sr. Born - March 12, 1939

March 12, 1939
John Paul Sr

Born in the Netherlands.
The 1979 Trans-Am Champion, Paul is a former class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He won the 1978 World Challenge for Endurance Drivers title and has won of both the 24 hours at Daytona & 12 hours of Sebring. He is the father of former CART, Indy car and Sports car driver John Paul Jr.

Paul Sr served a 15-year prison sentence for a variety of crimes including drug trafficking and shooting a Federal witness. In 2001 he disappeared on his boat while being sought for questioning by officials regarding the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.

Paul started club-level sportscar road racing in the late 1960s, winning the Sports Car Club of America Northeast Regional Championship in 1968. When his wife and son left him in 1972, Paul left racing for a while, living on a sailboat he had purchased. He resumed racing in 1975, now with his son, who had chosen to return to him, as a part-time member of his crew. He appeared at 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans for the Dick Barbour Racing team, taking a class win in IMSA GTX class partnered by Dick Barbour and Brian Redman. This followed his class win in the 12 Hours of Sebring, earlier that season.

In 1979, Paul won the Trans-Am Series race at Mosport by a margin of 33 seconds. He would win a total of six races, en route to winning the Trans-Am title. He had already won the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers title the season before. In 1980, Paul began teaming with his son, and on May 26 Paul remarried to Chalice Alford, holding the ceremony on the infield at Lime Rock Park. Later in the day he teamed with his son to win the day's race, the Coca-Cola 400, making them the first father-son duo to win an IMSA Camel GT race. Even more remarkable, it was Junior's first IMSA GT race he entered. They would pair up again to win the Road America Pabst 500. Paul, Sr., would go on to finished second the IMSA GT series. 1980 also saw his greatest achievement, winning the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers, by just four points over British driver John Fitzpatrick. Paul was not a particularly fast driver, but was consistent and determined. He also completed mainly in his specially modified Porsche 935s prepared by his own team, JLP Racing, operating out of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

His wife vanished without trace in the summer of 1981 and later divorced in her absence to seek marriage with Hope, sister of Hurley Haywood in Haiti. In 1982, Paul Sr., teamed up with his son, to win the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.Together, the Pauls would win three races. As a solo driver, Junior would win another four, all in JLP Racing prepared Porsche or Lola-Chrevolet T600. 1982 would be Paul Sr.'s last year as a driver, however. The lack of a major sponsor meant that, even with the team's success, his expenses overcame his earnings. In the paddock and off, Paul Sr. was known for his temper tantrums and mood swings that sent fear into everybody including his son, that helped to contribute to his imprisonment.

The Pauls had their first legal troubles when on January 10, 1979, Paul Jr. and Christopher Schill were caught by customs agents loading equipment onto a pickup truck on the bank of a canal in the Louisiana bayous after dark. Following questioning, when one of them smelled marijuana on their clothing, Paul Sr. was apprehended on his 42-foot boat named Lady Royale, where customs discovered marijuana residue and $10,000 on board. A rented truck was discovered nearby, which contained 1,565 pounds (710 kg) of marijuana. In court, all three pleaded guilty to marijuana possession charges, where each was placed on three years' probation and fined $32,500.

On April 19, 1983, an individual named Stephen Carson was shot in the chest, abdomen and leg in Crescent Beach, Florida. Carson had been given immunity in a drug trafficking case. He testified that John Paul, Sr. had approached him, ordered him into the trunk of his car, and shot at him five times when he fled rather than comply. Paul then fled when a companion of Carson's began shouting. Paul was arrested, but while out on bail fled before his trial. Paul was apprehended by Swiss authorities in January 1985, served a six-month sentence in Switzerland for using a false passport, and was extradited back to the United States in March 1986. At the same time, Paul's son John Jr. pleaded guilty to racketeering and received a five-year sentence, but refused to testify against his father, who had been indicted as the ringleader of a drug trafficking ring that included, among others, both Johns, and John Sr.'s father, Lee. On June 4, 1986, Paul Sr. pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and received a sentence of twenty years, later expanded to twenty-five years after additional sentences were added. Paul served his sentence in USP Leavenworth.

Paul was paroled on July 2, 1999, but soon ran into more problems. Shortly following release, Paul met a woman named Colleen Wood, who would shortly leave her office manager job, sell her condominium and move in with Paul on his 55-foot schooner to embark on a planned five year around the world boating trip. In December the following year, Wood disappeared, never to be heard from again. Police questioned Paul in connection with the disappearance, but no charges were filed. Paul shortly after disappeared himself, likely in violation of his parole. Shortly after, he was spotted by a passerby in the Fiji Islands who had recognized him from an episode of Unsolved Mysteries then sailed back to Europe. He then sold his sailboat via a magazine classified advert in Italy and is believed to be living in Thailand. As of 2015 the case remains unsolved.
John Paul and Colleen Wood


  1. Cudos! Thank you for your article. It is about time the racing world see's the Paul's for who they really are and not just for their racing credentials. Women are missing and presumed dead and that is the real victims behind their actions. If only John Paul Jr. could of done things differently back then and stood up to his father for his crimes he would of changed the destiny of so many people who fell victim. Instead he gave Chalice Paul her death sentence by telling his father she feared her life by John Paul Sr. May the heavens be singing today for their memories will live on with articles like this telling the real "truth" of the past to the racing world.

  2. Dave, The DOB for John Lee Paul Sr. is actually March 12, 1939 and not December 3, 1939 according to the Dept. of Corrections.

  3. Dave, The DOB for John Lee Paul Sr. is actually March 12, 1939 and not December 3, 1939 according to the Dept. of Corrections.