The gentleman of Ulster motor sport passes away
by JAKKI BLACK
|Ronnie Adams at the wheel of his Jaguar XK141956 US18-706SP
|Ronnie Adams pictured in 1959 with the Sunbeam Rapier at the start of the Alpine Rally. Also pictured is Ken Best US18-741SP
LISBURN man Ronnie Adams, one of the gentlemen of Ulster motor sport and a former winner of the famous Monte Carlo Rally, has died aged 88.
It was ironic that Ronnie died just after the end of the 2004 Circuit of Ireland Rally, as he was the first man to win the race in 1936.
The son of a wealthy Ulster industrialist, his early years were spent in Shropshire England, but the family returned to Northern Ireland.
The family home was Pond Park House, which is now a residential home. It was there that he grew to have a passion for motor sports.
After his first big win Ronnie made racing his career, a career that spanned 27 years.
When Ronnie Adams started competing in motor sport it was as an owner-driver but later, when the sport emerged from its war-time hibernation, he like many other rally drivers, competed under the wing of the motor manufacturers.
Having started out with no financial support, it was only his single-minded professionalism which brought him extraordinary successful results.
In 1956 Ronnie brought a lot of pride to not only the people of Lisburn but to all British motor enthusiasts when he gained international recognition by winning the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally for Jaguar.
Upwards of ninety guests were present at a dinner given to honour his victory in the Assembly Rooms, Market Square by the Lisburn Urban Council.
The Chairman spoke of how the winning team had brought fame not only to Lisburn, but also the Province and indeed the United Kingdom.
It was also added that the tourist body owed a deep debt to the team who with sheer stamina, endurance and ability had brought a coveted trophy to the town.
These words were greeted with huge applause. After receiving the gift of an inscribed Silver Tankard, Mr Adams said he felt very honoured and added it was thoughtful and generous of the Urban Council to have put on such a magnificent show on his behalf.
It was a really delightful function, he said.
He went on to say how he could not have achieved the great win without the help of his team members Mr. Johnston and Mr Bigger. To drive in such a rally was by no means a one-man job, and it took the collaboration of everyone in the car to get through.
The Monte Carlo Rally was an event which appealed to the different competitors in varying ways. To some it was only a means of getting to Monte Carlo, to others it was just an experience and to an elite group it was a test, in which they were determined to win through to success.
Ronnie Adams was handpicked by Jaguar to win the Monte Carlo race.
In 1954 he finished 15th in a Jaguar and was leading until the final race around the Monaco Grand Prix circuit until the bulksome car eventually slipped back.
Lofty England, the Jaguar competition manager who promised him a works car for the following year, noticed the performance. In 1955 came in at a reasonable 8th place.
In 1956 Jaguar went out to win the Monte Carlo with a trio of MKV11 saloons and three top drivers, Ian Appleyard, Irishman Cecil Varied and Ronnie Adams who choose Frank Millar front Dublin and Derek Johnson, the 1952 Circuit of Ireland winner also from Lisburn, as his crew. Ronnie's son Michael said, "My father won first prize of �1,200 for that prestigious race, which was a lot of money in those days and of course the Prince Rainier Trophy.
"When at home my father loved to race at Dundrod on the Dundrod Tourist Trophy circuit and was a regular at hill climbs such as Craigantlet.
"Dad retired in 1963 after one final fling in the Circuit of Ireland where he kept his unique record intact - 15 Circuits and 15 finishes.
"I am very proud of his achievements in the world of racing, he was a man with great determination, and love for his sport. To me he was a wonderful father and he will be sadly missed.