When it comes to unique stories of coming to faith, accidentally joining a Bible study with two former F1 drivers is definitely up there – this is Adriano’s story.
From a young age, Adriano Medeiros developed a passion for Formula One. He grew up close to the famous Interlagos circuit in Brazil, and it wasn’t long before he was finding ways to spend his days there.
When I started going to school by bus, the route passed by the track. If I arrived late at school, they would close the gates and not let me go in, so I used to get to the bus stop late, then jump out at the track!
This young passion matured into the motivation to become a professional racing driver, but Adriano didn’t come from a wealthy family. By his early twenties, he’d managed to scrape together 50% of the cash needed to attend racing school, and worked as a mechanic at the school to pay off the rest while he was training there.
This may sound like rags to riches, but it wasn’t that simple. Adriano competed in a number of races before running out of money completely, he’d even sold his car so he could race. It was at this moment his life took a different turn.
I needed to go abroad to have a chance of making motorsport my career. To do this, I needed someone with experience to help. Someone told me that Alex Ribeiro held regular meetings at the Interlagos track.
Alex Dias Ribeiro was an F1 driver in the 1970s with a very public Christian faith, in fact, his car had ‘Jesus saves’ written on the air intake and his helmet also carried the phrase.
Adriano showed up at the track to find not only Ribeiro but Emerson Fittipaldi, winner of two F1 World Championships, as well! Starstruck, Adriano couldn’t believe his luck until he found out what he’d turned up to.
Suddenly everybody sat around in a circle and got Bibles out and then they started talking about Jesus and God. I was very against church at the time. I just started asking myself, why on earth I'm doing this? Why am I doing here?
Adriano was frustrated, he asked Ribeiro if he could help him move abroad to further his racing career. Ribeiro said:
I can’t help you become a racing driver, but I can help you meet Jesus Christ.
This isn’t what Adriano wanted to hear, but he agreed to come back the following week and, after a couple of months, he gave his life to Christ.
Adriano eventually made his way to the UK, initially working as a mechanic and at McDonald’s to make ends meet. He eventually got his break at Palmersport, being offered a position as a racing instructor after applying to be a mechanic. This enabled him to get behind the wheel of a racing car yet again, racing in Formula Ford, The Britcar GT Championship, and the NASCAR Euro series.
In 2013, Jesus Saves Racing was reborn, almost 30 years after Alex Ribeiro’s Brazilian Formula Ford team of the same name had folded. That same year Adriano lifted the Formula Ford Classic Championship, a title he won a second time in 2016.
Adriano is unapologetic about his competitiveness, when he raced he’d push his rival's wheel to wheel.
Being Brazilian I’m very passionate about things, I get really disappointed if I back out of a turn and let another competitor through, especially carrying the message ‘Jesus saves’ on the car. I know every competitor is a really good driver, it’s my job as a professional to race hard and not allow myself to be beaten by driving softly.
But Adriano is also unashamed of his faith, his passionate racing alongside his bold witness won him favour among his team and his competitors.
My message is quite clear to all my friends and colleagues at work, as well as the people in the paddock. I can always explain to people what I do and why I do it. This year with my team I was able to explain my faith and one of the guys in the team said: ‘I'm really glad you said that, it's the first time I've seen Christianity in a way that actually makes sense to me.’
Of course, driving a car with ‘Jesus saves’ written in massive letters on the side leads to the occasional funny situation.
Once I was teaching a guy in the car, and we had an almighty spin at about 100mph. The guy turned to me and said ‘I’m really sorry Jesus.’ I just gave him a hug and said: ‘Don’t worry, Jesus can forgive you, but my name is Adriano!'
Graham Daniels met up with Adrian in 2016 to chat about his story.
Click here to listen to the full interview
Get the perfect start every
A weekly devotional for sports people