Weekly Local Biography

  Ian Adams

Ian 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 country?"

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 months."

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.