It was an impressive debut by anyone’s standards. The look of the thing may have been familiar, but this was the first race of a new car – even a new marque if you forget about a quirky low-budget parts bin special that bore the same name a few years before. The ‘first’ ADA arrived at the 1987 Brands Hatch 1000Km after a handful of shake-down laps, yet proceeded to lead the established class front runners in the early stages.
Tiff Needell had qualified the DFL-engined ADA 02 fourth in the C2 category of the World Sports-Prototype Championship and quickly moved to the front. And he stayed there almost until the first round of pitstops. Thereafter, a series of suspension problems caused by an overheating rear end curtailed its day in the sun.
“Better to have led and broke than not to have led at all,” says Needell. “That was a good day. The car was light and nimble and a joy to drive around Brands.”
ADA was making its debut as a constructor but the tiny Brentford team was a well-known, not unsuccessful player in C2: at least once it had upgraded from its own 01 chassis (built around a 1974 Lola) to one of the German Gebhardt marque’s designs. Its JC843 chassis had been increasingly reworked since the team had bought it at the end of 1984, so building the first real ADA was the obvious next step.
‘We’d done our own corners on the Gebhardt, so now I wanted to do our own tub,” remembers Chris Crawford, the engineering brains of ADA. “It built on our experience from the JC843, but the only Gebhardt component was the windscreen.”
This perennially underfunded outfit didn’t race again until the end of the year. It took 02 to Kyalami for the Nine Hours of 1987 and left with a bag of bits after local driver Mike Briggs all-but destroyed it.
A further version of the ADA, 03, was raced through a sporadic world championship campaign in 1988 before it was sold to Colin Pool for the following year’s BRDC British Sportscar Championship. Meanwhile, the rebuilt 02, already raced at Daytona in ’88, was pressed back into service for Le Mans in ’89.
The team’s 1990 plans revolved around a bespoke engine built by powerboat specialist Bill Bonner to whom Crawford had been introduced as for back as ’87. The project had been on and off the back burner, but was now given its head in ADA 02.
“As always, we wanted to do our own thing,” remembers Crawford, “and we came up with the idea of a big, lazy V6.” The 5.7-litre Bonner unit ran briefly in the BRDC series in 1990 but was abandoned, according to Crawford, after “one failure too many” in favour of a 3.9-litre Cosworth DFL. The car went on to notch up a brace of victories in the hands of Fritz Glatz and Tony Trevor before, with Group C in its death throes, ADA called time on the project.
Chassis 02 saw service in the pan-European Interserie with Scot Laurence Jacobsen, who then parked the car until selling it to Gary Pearson last year.
ADA 02 still runs the more bulbous rear bodywork from its days with the tall Bonner engine, but it will race in its Interserie spec, i.e. with a 3.5-litre Cosworth DFZ amidships, when it appears in this year’s Group C/GTP Revival Series.