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The Face of Ferrari PDF Print E-mail

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Herbert Adamczyk is managing director of Hong Kong and Macau’s Ferrari distributors Auto Italia.  A long-time motor industry expert, Adamczyk also has a number of podiums in the Macau Guia race, including victory in a Porsche Carrera in 1979.  He is also the man behind former GP driver Lucas di Grassi contesting last year’s GT Cup in a Ferrari 458 Italia.

We asked Adamczyk how he came to race and when: “It started on a very, very casual basis in Germany,” he explained.  “I come from a car family.  My father was killed in the Second World War, but my step-father had a small car business and when I first got my driving licence I bought a Volkswagen Beetle and went to the VW events on a Sunday morning.  I was born in Cologne and I lived close to the Belgian border and we would drive over to Assen, the famous motorcycle track.  

“We would also go to Zandvoort in the dunes of Holland and we would scare the hell out of ourselves racing our Beetles.”

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When Herbert came to Hong Kong he worked for Jebsen & Co., selling Volkswagens and of course, Porsche models.
“I joined the motor sports club, went to various events in Beetles and later of course in a Porsche.  I raced in a number of places, not just Macau.  I raced at the Fuji circuit outside Tokyo, a 6-hour race in a Porsche with Jim Sweeney; I raced at Sentul in Indonesia and in Malaysia in Penang.  I suppose you could say I had two stints, two competitive times in my life, both at a number of circuits.  I never raced at Zhuhai but of course I’ve driven at ZIC on a number of occasions.

“Jim Sweeney, you may be interested to know, was a big, burly American from Pennsylvania and we became very good friends.  He married a Japanese girl and moved to the States, to California with their daughter.  Their daughter was born in Hong Kong and in fact I’m her god-father.  Jim passed away a few years ago and when the daughter finished her studies at UCLA, she came back to Hong Kong to look after Jim before he died.”
Herbert Adamczyk had a varied and relatively successful racing career, but it is Macau that brought him the greatest accolades.

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“Although I raced around Asia, predominantly it was Macau; that was very important to us.  The driving ability of Jim, however, was exceeded by his bravery. I could have seen him in a NASCAR race; a big, burly American.  We were the best of friends and sometimes we shared a car or we had two cars in the same team.  In 1979 Jim came third in Macau; I won and Hasemi was second.

“Porsche was, from a business point of view, and from an engineering point of view, my life.  I came out to Hong Kong working for Jebsen with Volkswagen and Porsche and I like to think that my personal racing activities increased business for Porsche.  And that was in fact our business model when Klaus Doerr and I set up German Motors.  I left Jebsen in late 1974 and in 1975 we started German Motors near to the old airport at Kai Tak.  It was basically Volkswagen and Porsche and motorsports tuning.  Then I kept winning races and that was probably the best advertising our business could have had.

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“My relationship with Porsche was excellent and in my heart, it is still with Porsche.  Although my business is Ferrari, and this year we celebrated our 30th year with Ferrari, I still have a lot of respect for Porsche and would never say anything bad about them.

“As well as the Porsches, I had a spell of racing with BMW.  I bought a Schnitzer BMW, similar to the ones being raced in Europe at the time, except those had a turbo and here turbochargers were not permitted, so Schnitzer installed a Formula 2 engine, 300 horsepower from a two litre motor.   I raced that car in Macau but did not do very well.  It had a 100 per cent limited-slip differential and in the tight corners it was very difficult.  Manfred Winkelhock who was in the other car said I should just ‘throw it’ into the corner but I just could not do that.  There were too many walls for me to think of doing that!  I was treating it too gently and fortunately an oil hose that came through the driver’s compartment broke filling the car with fumes.  I managed to get back to the pits and told them that I couldn’t drive this car any more. Truth be told, I didn’t want to drive it any more.  That was in 1981.

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“I was almost at the end of my racing career but I borrowed Jim Sweeney’s Carrera RSR with 935 bodywork and I raced that in Macau but I got hit from behind by a BMW and I finished in mid-field.  And that was basically it.  There were other things: I was married, we had kids – Michael and Catherine – and I had the business.  I had responsibilities. And particularly in Macau, if you cannot concentrate 110 per cent then you should not go and I did not have that frame of mind any more so I sold everything and that was that.”

Lucas di Grassi in Macau 2012
Herbert and his company, Auto Italia, sponsored ex-F1 driver Lucas di Grassi in the Macau Cup GT race last year, driving a Ferrari 458 Italia.
“The GT race is gaining a higher and higher profile. There are a number of dealer- or factory-sponsored cars in this event, like the Audi R8, and we have a number of Ferrari owners who drive in the 430 Challenge and we have the 458 Racing Challenge series where we had the largest number of entries from Hong Kong.

“So we said let’s try and do something with this so we obtained a car from AF Corse and asked Lucas di Grassi to join us and we certainly got a lot of exposure for this. The fact, though, that he jumped the start did not help (in last year’s race) but he would have been a good second (to Edo Mortara in the Audi).  In terms of raw performance tyres had a lot to do with it but on the day the Audi was the better car.  It would have needed a gigantic effort on Di Grassi’s behalf to win this but was complaining of early tyre degradation.  He was OK for three laps and then they went off, which did not help.  

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“We were hoping to go into the event this year with at least one car.  The problem is that it takes place soon after our 30th anniversary celebration with 1,000 Ferraris on show at Shatin Racecourse in Hong Kong. But make no mistake, we will definitely be back in 2014.”

Herbert Adamczyk was talking to Jeff Heselwood

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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