What have Exmoor, Sodastream, Le Mans and Kilimanjaro in common?

Read our interview with 1989 FIA World C2 Sportscar Champion Nick Adams to discover.  Interview by Ken Davies. Images courtesy of Nick Adams archive and Ken Davies

Interview first published in Castle Combe Talk, June 2017 with Goodwood Revival images subsequently added.
FIA World Champions are a rare breed that occupy an exclusive club, so to have one residing just a stone’s throw from Castle Combe circuit would indeed surprise many people. However, that’s where the 1989 FIA World Sports Car C2 Champion Nick Adams lives in modest anonymity. Although Nick has now retired from the glamorous world of international motor racing, he still lives a busy life, but we caught up with him recently for a fascinating insight into his long and successful racing career.

Nick’s father was a RAF pilot during WWII, stationed at Chivenor in North Devon, so Nick really formed a small part of the post-war baby boom when he arrived in Braunton, a few miles from Chivenor. He attended West Buckland School, high on Exmoor, which was character building and it certainly helped if you were into sports, otherwise it was a pretty bleak place and Nick’s abiding memory is of being permanently cold and hungry.

By this time, Nick’s father had left the RAF and the family moved to Bath in 1961. After school Nick went into surveying, before switching to insurance, where he’s stayed ever since. He started with the Yorkshire Insurance Company in Bristol and opted for the claims side, because he’d found out that Claims Inspectors were given company cars. Hence, he started his successful motoring journey in a pale green 1-litre Ford Anglia. On returning from a three-year posting abroad, Nick transferred to loss adjusting and runs his own company based in Wimbledon to this day.

Nick at Goodwood Revival 2017 - ex-Stirling Moss F1 Ferguson 4x4
Pre-racing days, Nick was an enthusiastic, but not necessarily very effective, rugby player and he’s been a season ticket holder at Bath RFC’s ‘Rec’ for many years. He keeps fit by running and managed to complete the Bath Half Marathon earlier this year. Nick now lives in Limpley Stoke near Bath with his family. Wife Sue and daughter Amy have recently started a business in Bath and are about to expand, which Nick thinks bodes well for his retirement. Oldest son Oli lives in Newquay and is one of the UK’s top professional surfers, whilst younger son Tim has inherited his father’s racing genes and already completed a couple of seasons in the USA and now has his eye on GTs at Combe.

Having had his interest in motor sport ignited by some friends at the famous Prescott hill climb, it all started to get serious in 1974 when Nick enrolled at a driving course at the Sharp Racing Driver's School at Goodwood circuit, winning the Firestone Trophy which was presented to the best pupil. For 1975 he progressed into the popular Clubmans Sports Cars series, competing in Class B for Formula Ford-engined cars and was class winner in the three championships he competed in; BARC, BRSCC and BRDC, and outright winner of the Tricentrol Silverstone Championship. Nick also scooped the Marler-Haley Trophy presented to best newcomer, with a season total of 20 wins and six lap records.

In 1976, contending the Clubmans Sports Cars in Class A for fully modified engines, he won both the BRSCC and BRDC Championships with 13 wins and five lap records. At the end of the season Nick was awarded the prestigious Groveward Award by former winner and F1 World Champion James Hunt. The annual Grovewood Award was the forerunner of the Autosport-BRDC award of today, with an impressive list of previous winners, containing many future world champions.

For 1978 Nick chose the new Sodastream Sports 2000 Championship, which at the time was the Premier UK Sports Car Championship, armed with a Lola T492. This yielded third overall, in the Championship including some outright wins and two lap records. The following year Nick went one better and finished second overall in the Championship with more wins, fastest laps and lap records. In 1980/81 Nick stepped up to the Formula Atlantic Championship with a March 80A, and from there moved into World Championship Sports Car Racing from 1984-86 with Gebhardt Engineering, ADA Racing and Goodmans Bardon Team, recording his first classified finish in the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1985.

Nick then joined Chamberlain Engineering in the World Sports Car Championship, driving a Spice Hart C2, scoring four class pole positions, including Le Mans 1987/88, plus several top three class finishes. Then 1989 brought Nick the FIA World Sports Car C2 Championship after scoring five class wins; Japan, France, UK, Spain and Mexico, plus eight pole positions and five lap records. At the end of this successful season Nick was awarded the prestigious ERA Club Trophy by the British Racing Drivers Club, awarded for the best overseas performance by a British driver. Previous winner Nigel Mansell presented the venerable trophy to Nick.

More World Sports Car Championship races followed in 1990/91/93, including Le Mans with the iconic Group C Momo Porsche 962. Also, 1993 brought another Le Mans 24 Hours appearance and some races in the European Interseries Sports prototype Championship.

Nick switched to the British GT Championship for 1994 in a Lotus Esprit Sport 300, and he won the 24hrs International Historic Race at Paul Ricard in an AC Cobra, recording the fastest lap and lap record. In 1995, as well as the British GT Championship, he appeared at the Le Mans 24 Hours race, again in a Porsche, but this time a GT2 911 which yielded sixth in class. Into 1996 and British GT’s again, but this time in a Jaguar XJ220.

The following year Nick scaled down his international racing and competed in the well-supported national Porsche 924 Championship, perhaps predictably for a driver of Nick’s calibre, ending the season as overall champion with seven wins and five lap records. Nick competed in the Porsche Classic Championship in 1998, followed by the Porsche Cup UK in 1999, and the following year he took part in five races of the Revival Group C Series, scoring three second and one third podium places.

For 2003/4/5 Nick again competed in the British GT Championship, sharing a Ferrari 360 with Marco Attard, which included the well-publicised round at Castle Combe, and in 2006 he drove an Ascari KZ1R in the FIA GT3 Championship Oschersleben Race.

After retiring from front-line international motor racing, Nick has competed just for the love of the sport at club level including several historic races in a variety of cars, including an indecently quick Lotus Elan. Nick is currently custodian and driver of the unique ex-Stirling Moss Ferguson F1 4x4 car which he raced to fourth place at the 2016 Goodwood Revival meeting.

Personable and extremely modest, Nick Adams has to be the West Country's most successful racing driver – excluding 2009 World F1 Champion and Frome native Jenson Button – having won the premier Grovewood award, been crowned World Sports Car champion, secured C2 pole position at Le Mans 1988 and 1989 and, at the time of writing, holding the current C2 lap record at the challenging la Sarthe circuit.

We hope you enjoy our interview….

Our first question Nick is, how did you make your start in motorsport?
I was great friends with the Woodward brothers and bought Guy Woodward’s Lotus 7 and did a hill climb at Prescott in September 1970. It was here I well and truly caught the competing bug. I then sold the Lotus and talked my way into an insurance job abroad, where I saved up enough money to do a course at the Sharp Racing School at Goodwood; supervised by the late David Purley, and purchased my first race car, a Mallock U2 Mk 14. My first ever race was then at Castle Combe on 17 August 1974. It wasn’t a great start though. Having qualified fourth I managed to spin off at Old Paddock on the first lap and took out the championship leader! He was not best pleased.

What has been the best moment in your motor sport career?
Winning the World C2 Sportscar Championship in 1989 is the obvious stand-out achievement, but as single moments, my C2 poles at Le Mans in 1987 and 1988 were pretty special.

What has been the worst moment?
As a result of a chance meeting in 1986, I secured sponsorship from a brand of the Post Office (Swiftair) for what I thought was a full-time drive for the next three years with a prominent Group C team. Unfortunately, the team did not honour their part of the bargain and, after the deal was signed, I was only offered intermittent drives in the second car. I made sure the sponsorship only lasted a single year, but out of that disaster I met up with the wonderful Hugh Chamberlain and, although we didn't have a huge budget, we went on to win our World Championship two years later

Which event did/do you most look forward to?
These days it’s the Goodwood Revival which is as near to period racing as you can get.

Congratulations, you’ve won the lottery, what car do you rush out to buy?
I’d like to buy all the cars I’ve raced, renovate them and use them at track days whenever possible.

What are your future motor sport plans?
These days it amounts to half-a-dozen historic races a year. I’m just off to Road Atlanta for a historic race in a Ford Falcon next month which ticks a lot of boxes; first time in a Falcon, track I’ve never raced at, and warm weather.

Which competition car has impressed you most?
Hugh Chamberlain’s Spice SE86C had a Hart 1.5-litre turbocharged F1 engine and for qualifying delivered 850bhp. That was impressive.

What do you consider to be your most entertaining event?
For entertainment there is nothing like a bank holiday meeting at the Combe.

What is your most effective or personal asset?
Family. Originally my mum and dad, who were hugely supportive (now unfortunately both passed away), but wife Sue and children have always been big cheer leaders.

What advice would you give to an aspiring driver?
Rather like the Scouts, be prepared. Firstly, do your homework, decide what you can afford, and then prepare as well as you can for your opportunities. Secondly, don’t be downhearted when things go wrong. I once estimated less than 50 percent of all races I ever did were problem free. The norm is for things to go wrong!

Who has been your greatest motoring inspiration?
When I was at boarding school I was hugely inspired by Stirling Moss, through Motor Sport magazine, which I devoured from cover to cover.

Please tell us something surprising about yourself Nick?
I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2007 and raised £5,000 for a homeless charity in Bath.

What will we find on the Adams car CD or iPlayer?
At my age it’s CDs and, unsurprisingly, it’s likely to be compilations from the time when I was growing up, although these days, I do find myself increasingly humming along to something classical.

Thank you, Nick, for being a great sport and taking part in this interview, which our enthusiastic and knowledgeable readers will appreciate. Good luck in your future endeavours.