Monday, July 19, 2021

Chipper Adams; the champion that never was!

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When you ask long time Ugandan rally fans to make a ranked list of the most skilled rally drivers they know, the name Chipper Adams “Sentamu” will be found atop or near the top of most lists.

Chipper Adams first appeared on the Uganda rally scene sometime in late 1990 or early 1991 driving a showroom Toyota Corolla DX. Rally heads noticed him right away when he won what was supposed to be a training rally for novice drivers but also drew in some of the big guns like Karim Hirji – Nissan 240RS, Kaka Junior – Audi Quattro and Gerald Kiddu – Toyota Supra.

Incidentally, this was also the first rally driven by current FMU president Dipu Ruparelia in a Daihatsu Charade. Chipper Adams would also a few years later acquire the virgin Toyota Supra driven by Kiddu on that day.

Chipper Adams was a beauty to watch. His speed, technique and style quickly made him arguably the most popular driver of that era. He was a very competitive driver that gave the heavy hitters of the day a run for their money in spite of driving what was considered an inferior car.

After driving the Corolla DX for a couple of years, Chipper moved on to a Toyota Levin Super Charger and with it introduced what was to become one of the most popular rally cars to the Uganda rally scene. The super charger was a very competitive budget rally car that gave a lot of drivers including former NRC champions Charlie Lubega and Moses Lumala their start in rally.

Chipper Adams a telecom engineer was also a great mechanic and was able to tune/setup his Levin to get the maximum performance. It competed very favorably with works cars that during the 1997 Kampala Casino Rally, he won the first stage against seasoned competitors in superior machinery including Karim Hirji who was driving the monstrous Toyota Celica GT-4 ST205 aka Surambaya. There was some grumbling about the inferior car, road positions and a regroup was ordered so Adams went into the next stage first on the road. He continued to drive at a blistering pace and rolled the car at end of the stage having not seen the FF – this was the very first roll in his career.

After retiring the Levin Super Charger, Chipper acquired a Toyota Supra Turbo – The Hissing Cobra and his star shined even brighter. It was during this period that Adams came into his prime winning often, among his wins were the 1997 and 1999 Pearl of Uganda rallies – Uganda’s ARC round and most prestigious event.

Chipper in the Toyota Supra in one of the events

At the beginning of the 2000 season, it becomes apparent that for Adams to win the NRC or defend his POARU win a new car was needed to replace the aging rear-wheel-drive supra. A fundraising drive lead and organized by the fans was started to buy Sentamu a new car. His sponsors Shell and Hima Cement topped up the fan’s contribution and a Dom Buckley prepared Mitsubishi EVO V – “Nabuto” was sourced and airlifted to Entebbe just in time for the 2000 POARU.

The Evo 5 “Nabutto” on arrival at Entebbe.

Chipper did not have time to acclimatize to the new car that was delivered only 4 days before the rally and dropped out of the rally but midday on day one. The rest of the 2000 season was used to learn the new car and prepare for the next season.
The 2001 season started with a bang validating the decision to move from the Supra into a new AWD car. Chipper won in Mukono and in Mityana, was 4th in Masaka and was locked in a battle for the NRC title that season with Charlie “Macarena” Lubega.

When disaster struck in the next round in the Luwero “Shell Helix” rally when Chipper and navigator Justin Beyendeza went off the road and crashed the car beyond repair. This incident brought tears to many a fan who were rooting very hard for Chipper and for once felt they had a dog in the fight having pitched in when the car was purchased the previous year.

“Nabutto” after crush in Shell hellix rally Luwero

The crew escaped unhurt and after this accident Chipper Adams went into early retirement with no championship in hand, however he remains one of the most skilled rally drivers Uganda has ever had and is dearly missed.

Tidbits: Did you know that:

  • Chipper Adams mentored former champions Moses Lumala and Arthur Blick when they were novices.
  • Got involved in rally as part of the service crew of his “cousins” Julian and Jonathan Savage’s Lancia Rallye 037.
  • Gave the Kabaka of Buganda a ride in his rally car during a sprint.

All the Credit goes to Dave Jones, Aaron Nsamba and Joshua Mayanja

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