John Lee Paul (born Hans-Johan Paul[needs Dutch IPA], March 12, 1939) is an American racing driver, convicted felon and fugitive. After his racing career, which saw him win both U.S. classic endurance races, 24 hours at Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring, he 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. As of 2021, Paul's status is unknown. He is sometimes known in the motorsport scene as John Paul Sr. or John Paul.
Paul emigrated to the United States from The Netherlands in 1956 with his family, settling in Muncie, Indiana and legally changing his name to John Lee Paul. He attended Ball State University and then received a scholarship to Harvard University, where he received a master's degree in business. He became a successful mutual fund manager, and a millionaire. In 1960, his wife Joyce gave birth to a son, John Jr., who went on to become a successful driver on his father's team, but also served prison time for joining in some of his father's numerous criminal activities.
Paul started club-level sportscar road racing in the late 1960s, winning the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) 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 fellow American, Dick Barbour, and English driver, Brian Redman – in his first attempt at the French classic. 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. It was the first IMSA GT race Paul Jr. had ever entered.
Father and son paired up again to win the Road America Pabst 500. Paul Sr. finished second in the IMSA GT series. In 1980 he won the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers by just four points over British driver John Fitzpatrick. He competed mainly in his specially modified Porsche 935s prepared by his own team, JLP Racing, operating out of Lawrenceville, Georgia.
In 1982, Paul Sr., teamed up with his son to win the 12 Hours of Sebring and, with third driver Rolf Stommelen, the 24 Hours of Daytona, running a race record (as of 2016) 2,760.960 mi (4,443.334 km). Together, the Pauls won three races. As a solo driver, Junior won another four, all in JLP Racing-prepared Porsche or Lola-Chevrolet T600. 1982 would be Paul Sr.'s last year as a driver. Lack of a major sponsor, even with the team's success, meant expenses overcame his earnings.
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.
Shooting of witness
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 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 Jr. pleaded guilty to racketeering and received a five-year sentence. He'd refused to testify against his father, who had been indicted as the ringleader of a drug trafficking ring that also included his 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.
On March 10, 1987, Paul and another inmate unsuccessfully attempted to escape from prison by spraying a mixture of hot sauce and Pine Sol in a guards face then scaling a 12-foot fence. The guard recovered and fired two shots, scaring the inmates into surrendering. There was a stolen pickup truck in the parking lot that authorities suspect was for the two inmates. Paul served his sentence in USP Leavenworth. Paul was paroled on July 2, 1999.
Disappearance of girlfriend
Shortly following release from prison in 1999, Paul met an office manager named Colleen Wood. She would shortly leave her 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 later disappeared himself, likely in violation of his parole.
Paul Sr.'s "tantrums" made those in the vicinity fear for their safety. As one IMSA official put it, "Senior is the most terrifying man I have ever met. Temper tantrums and wild outbursts are pretty commonplace in racing, but Senior's extend way beyond that. He is more than frightening. He is scary." He once stormed into his racing offices and threw a full briefcase across the room like a Frisbee. "If it had hit a secretary, it would have taken her head off," reported a witness. "And I know he never looked before he threw. He could have killed someone."
Racing promoter Steve Earwood remembered a event between father and son at a Camel GT race in 1982. "The kid had just won the pole and we had him on a radio show and everyone was in a good mood... he couldn't have been happier," Earwood said. But, then "the old man showed up with his bride-to-be... (and) started screaming and yelling and chewed the kid up and down and sideways for something that had happened earlier. It was quite a scene and it rattled the hell out of the kid. He never did recover the rest of the night. He just looked beat."
When asked if he was afraid of his father, Paul Jr. said, "My father can be very intimidating at times."
Shortly after his disappearance, Paul Sr. was spotted by a passerby in the Fiji Islands who had recognized him from an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Having sailed back to Europe, he sold his sailboat via a magazine classified ad in Italy. He was last seen in Thailand. The FBI wish to question him about Wood's disappearance, although they have no new leads. He also appeared in an episode of Disappeared in 2012. As of 2019, the case remains unsolved.
|1977||IMSA Camel GT Challenge||8th||John Paul||Porsche 911 Carrera RSR|
|1978||FIA World Challenge for Endurance Drivers ||1st||Jim Downing
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR
|IMSA Camel GT Challenge||6th||JLP Racing||Porsche 911 Carrera RSR|
|1979||Trans-Am Cat. 2||1st||JLP Racing||Porsche 935 JLP-1|
|1980||FIA World Challenge for Endurance Drivers ||1st||Preston Henn
|Porsche 935 K3|
Porsche 935 JLP2
|1981||Camel GT Championship ||12th||JLP Racing||Porsche 935 JLP3|
|FIA World Endurance Championship of Drivers ||112th||JLP Racing||Porsche 935 JLP3|
|1982||Camel GT Championship||3rd||JLP Racing||Porsche 935 JLP3|
|Camel GTO Championship ||41st||Pontiac Firebird|
|FIA World Endurance Championship of Drivers ||103rd||N.A.R.T.||Ferrari 512BB LM|
Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results
|1978||IMSA+2.5||90||G||Porsche 935/77A||Dick Barbour Racing|| Brian Redman
|1980||IMSA||73||G||Porsche 935 JLP-2||J.L.P. Racing|| Guy Edwards
John Paul Jr.
|1982||IMSA GTX||72||M||Ferrari 512BB LM||N.A.R.T.|| Alain Cudini
Complete 24 Hours of Daytona results
|GTO||38||G||Porsche 911 Carrera RSR||John Paul||
|GTO||33||Porsche 911 Carrera RSR||Boricua Motors||
|GTX||18||Porsche 935 JLP-1||JLP Racing|| Al Holbert
|GTX||09||Porsche 935/77A||Thunderbird Swap Shop||Al Holbert||682||2nd||2nd|
|GTX||18||Porsche 935 JLP-2||JLP Racing|| John Paul Jr.
|1982||GTP||8||Porsche 935 JLP-2||JLP Racing|| John Paul Jr.
|GTP||18||G||Porsche 935 JLP-3||JLP Racing|| John Paul Jr.
|1983||GTP||8||Porsche 935 JLP-4||JLP Racing||15||DNF|
Complete 12 Hours of Sebring results
|GTO||38||G||Porsche 911 Carrera RSR||John Paul Sr.||
|GTO||33||Porsche 911 Carrera RSR||JLP Racing||233||4th||1st|
|1979||GTX||18||Porsche 935 JLP-1||JLP Racing||Al Holbert||176||DNF|
|1980||GTX||09||Porsche 935/77A||Thunderbird Swap Shop|| Preston Henn
|1981||GTX||8||G||Porsche 935 JLP-3||JLP Racing||John Paul Jr.||40||DNF |
|1982||GTP||18||G||Porsche 935 JLP-3||JLP Racing||John Paul Jr.||244||1st|
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The shooting occurred on a boat ramp in Crescent Beach, near St. Augustine.
- Auto Racer Flees From His Trial United Press International, December 13, 1983.
- SPORTS PEOPLE; Driver Extradited New York Times, March 30, 1986
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