Adams is a slightly built Australian car and motorcycle racer,
with an accent that is straight out of Aussie TV. This interview
actually gave me a great personal sense of satisfaction, as it
allowed me to catch up with Ian against whom I had raced 33
years ago in Australia. It is indeed a small world!
These days, Ian is the Finance Manager for
Thailand and Burma for a charity called International Children’s
Care, run under the auspices of the Seventh Day Adventist
Church. His love of his church and his love of racing cars and
bikes have run hand in hand all his life, and with his healthy
Australian disregard for officialdom (especially radar speed
traps), those twin loves have kept him going, now into his 60s.
Ian is the son of well known Australian
racing driver and race car constructor, Clive Adams, who at 89
is still involved in the business! When Ian first started
racing, the pundits told him, "If you’re half as good as
your Dad, you’ll be alright!" History will show he was
all of that and more. Even Dad would agree. His mother was the
proverbial ‘racing widow’. "I feel bad about
that," said Ian. "Fifteen years with Dad and thirty of
me! Poor Mum."
Ian Adams was not one of those children who
grew up not knowing what they wanted to do. "I dreamed of
being a racing driver from primary school," said Ian.
"I left the minute I was old enough and went to (trade)
college." That took up the next five years of his life as
he (concurrently) did panel beating, spray painting, motor body
building and bike mechanics, graduating with all certificates.
When not in college, he worked in his father’s garage, but
when he was 21 he opened his own business. "I’ve been
self employed ever since," said Ian.
Now Ian just had to go motor racing, his
boyhood dream. There was only one problem - his religion. He had
been brought up by his Seventh Day Adventist parents and
followed them into that religion. A cornerstone in that faith is
the fact that Saturday from sun up to sun down is set aside as
the Lord’s day, not a time for personal pursuits. The problem
arising was the fact that ‘Qualifying’ for the starting
positions of all Sunday motor racing takes place during the day
on Saturday. If a driver does not run in Qualifying, then he
starts at the rear of the field on Sunday - a huge disadvantage.
Ian was caught between a rock and a hard
place! Turn his back on his faith and realise his true potential
on the race track, or stick with it and be forced to start at
the back for the rest of his circuit racing career. The career
he had dreamed of since he was six years old!
Like any engineer he decided to look deeply
into the problem, and studied the tenets of the religion.
"If I found a loophole, I was out," said Ian. He did
not find that loophole, and in fact his study reinforced his
faith. Ian Adams became the racer from the back of the field,
fighting his way towards the front every Sunday.
He tried his hand at all categories, even
running Formula 1 at the Australian Grands Prix of 1978-80.
However, he was having a few health problems and looked like
failing the medical for circuit racing (he diluted his urine
with apple cider to make it look less cloudy), but then he found
that speedway did not have rigorous medicals, so he became a
dirt track racer as these events are held on Saturday - after
the sun goes down!
He was again very successful, racing on dirt.
"I was racing every weekend for 30 years." I asked Ian
why did he not compete overseas. "Never had the time. Why
go overseas when you can’t get to all the circuits in your own
However, he did eventually go overseas, but
not to race his cars or bikes. In 1990 his church was involved
in building a school in northern Thailand, and Ian decided to
help the effort, coming up and lending a hand. This resulted in
more trips and eventually in 1995 he moved here permanently to
work with the International Children’s Care (ICC) group. ICC
is in 27 countries, Thailand is just one of the many, but Ian
liked this country. "I could handle this," said Ian.
"I love kids. Who looks after kids? My job is to make sure
the money is spent wisely."
Here in the north, he oversees four houses in
Mae Tang, with foster parents looking after hordes of children.
He also goes to refugee camps and even into Burma. "I watch
every cent, because charity’s got a bad name," said Ian
simply. Unfortunately there have been those who have taken
advantage of the charity dollar. Ian Adams is not one of them.
In Australia, Ian still has his workshop and
goes back for two months every year. There, a collection of
other people’s racing cars, classic cars and bikes all wait
for him to weave his special magic over them. "That gives
me enough money to come back here and live for the other ten
Ian Adams has gone from running in the
Formula 1 Grand Prix to running in the Chiang Mai traffic light
Grand Prix, but this is not a decision that he regrets - other
than on Saturday nights when he imagines he can smell the
methanol fumes, and hear the sound of healthy race engines at
full bellow at the speedway. Motorsport is something that runs
in the blood, and no end of purging will get it out. Just ask
Ian Adams (or me!).
At one stage in the interview Ian described himself as always
being a square peg in a round hole. I think he might have just
found his square hole right here in Chiang Mai.