Charlie Gibson receives 2004 Bob Akin Motorsports Award
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Sept. 16, 2004) - The late Charlie Gibson was named the 2004 recipient of the Road Racing Drivers Club's Bob Akin Motorsports Award at a reception held at the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen, N.Y., on Sept. 10.
The reception was part of a series of events surrounding the Zippo U.S. Vintage Grand Prix of Watkins Glen at Watkins Glen Raceway sanctioned by the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association (SVRA).
RRDC president Bobby Rahal presented the second annual award to Gibson's longtime friend and business partner, Dave Handy.
Each recipient is selected by Akin's son Bobby and RRDC members Brian Redman and Archie Urciuoli.
Born in New York in 1935, Gibson lost his life in February of this year in an off-track accident at his Sasco Sports vintage and historic race-preparation shop in Danville, Va. He was a successful vintage and professional race-car driver, a businessman, an expert skier, and a strong supporter of motorsports safety.
Gibson attended Williams College and Harvard University, earning a Master of Science degree in Engineering at Williams and an MBA from Harvard. He later served as president of the U.S. Ski Association. In 1962 he joined IBM's marketing department, from which he retired in 1988. In 1977 he founded Sasco Sports in Fairfield, Conn., then relocated it to Virginia in 1999.
As a driver, his credentials include racing an Austin-Healey Sprite in 1959 and a Lotus 23, in which he won the 1967 Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) G-Modified National Championship. In vintage competition, he raced, among others, a McLaren Can-Am car, a Lister-Chevy and his familiar orange-striped 1959 Lola Mk 1. He twice won the Monoposto Racing Formula 70 Gilles Villeneuve Memorial Trophy in his March 79B Formula Atlantic.
"Charlie was a friend to all of us," said Rahal. "He was a successful guy. I remember he was pretty damned fast in a Lotus 23. But Charlie was the kind of guy who I don't think was too impressed with what he was supposed to be. He was just a true racer. You would see him changing tires, driving the truck, everything. He'd do it all.
"He was a very smart guy, a very talented guy, a guy who obviously loved the sport. He is sorely missed and he was universally respected, especially in the vintage-car world, for who he was and what he did.
"I can't think of a better person to receive this award - unfortunately, posthumously."
"I'd like to thank the RRDC and, of course, the Akin family for this wonderful award on behalf of Charlie," said Handy, Gibson's business partner for 28 years. "I knew that I was going to have to get up here and say something, but I thought about what Charlie would have done. He would have been extremely honored and privileged to accept this award and he also would have been extremely embarrassed to be standing up here getting any accolades for anything. As anyone who knew him knows, Charlie did things just because it was the right thing to do.
"He never expected to get anything out of it. He never expected to receive any awards."
"Charlie was an outstanding driver, engineer, mechanic and, best of all, a friend," commented Syd Silverman, chairman of Vintage Motorsport Magazine. "Sasco Sports prepared many race cars and Charlie helped prepare many drivers.
"He was a strong believer that the overtaking car had the responsibility for a safe pass. I'm sure anybody who has ever attended a driver's meeting at which Charlie had something to say will remember that.
"Watching your mirrors was Charlie's favorite motto and you'd better do it often if he was behind you because he wouldn't be there very long.
"Vintage racing is full of talkers, as we all know," added Silverman. "Charlie was one of the best listeners in the sport and, because he heard and understood what you said, he responded in kind in his easygoing and friendly manner.
"Charlie was one of a kind. His interest in driving, drivers and cars made him a leader in the sport for many years. By his example, he has challenged all of us to improve our performance and technique and to love vintage racing as much as he did."
Carl Jensen, competition director for the SVRA, also remembered Gibson. "Every time I would go to a race track, be it vintage racing or pro racing, I always made it a point to stop by and have a few words with Charlie. He certainly was a unique individual and I always enjoyed his somewhat different perspective on either the vintage event or pro event that was going on that weekend or just the sport in general."
Sam Posey was the first recipient of the Bob Akin Motorsports Award for 2003. The distinctive trophy was conceived by the RRDC to honor the memory of long-time RRDC member and past president Bob Akin, who lost his life in a racing accident in 2002.
The trophy was designed by Steuben Glass in Corning, N.Y., and is given to an amateur, vintage or semi-professional American road racer who best exemplifies the extraordinary qualities and characteristics that Akin represented, including a passion for motorsports and automobiles, a high level of sportsmanship and fair play, and who has contributed to the motorsports community.
The permanent trophy, listing annual winners, is on display at the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen, N.Y. The recipients receive a smaller, engraved version of the award.
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 to promote road racing and driver safety. The RRDC today continues to recognize, promote and mentor road-racing drivers. Along with the Bob Akin Motorsports Award, the RRDC presents the Phil Hill Award (annually to a driver, sponsor or sanctioning official who makes outstanding contributions to road racing), and the Mark Donohue Award (annually to an outstanding driver at the SCCA National Runoffs).