ATLANTA, Georgia - April 30 - Race car champion and vintage racer Bob Akin died last night from complications suffered as the result of testing accident at Road Atlanta last Thursday. Akin, from Ossining, NY, passed away at 11:45 PM at Grady ...
ATLANTA, Georgia - April 30 - Race car champion and vintage racer Bob Akin died last night from complications suffered as the result of testing accident at Road Atlanta last Thursday.
Akin, from Ossining, NY, passed away at 11:45 PM at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He was 66 years old.
Akin was driving a 1988 Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo during testing for the Walter Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta. The Mitty is sanctioned by the Historic Sportscar Racing Association and features vintage and historic cars from a wide variety of racing series.
Fred Schwab, president of Porsche Cars North America, was deeply saddened when he learned of Akin's death, and said Akin represented the best of Porsche and motorsports.
"He was a very talented race driver and team owner, having won the 12 Hours of Sebring in both his Porsche 935 and Porsche 962, but his enthusiasm and dedication to vintage racing and the perpetuation of motorsports made him a special friend," said Schwab.
Akin was a standout in the International Motor Sports Association's Camel GT series in the '70s and '80s, driving Porsches almost exclusively, but his career highlights were those two Sebring wins, with Roy Woods and Rob McFarlin in the Budweiser Porsche 9 35 in 1979 and with the late Jo Gartner and Hans Stuck in the Coca-Cola Porsche 962 in 1986. The 115.82 mph average speed in the 1986 race represents the fastest average speed ever for a 12 Hours of Sebring winner.
Alwin Springer, president of Porsche Motorsport North America, said he and his wife had become friends with Akin and his family as a result of the 25 years of Bob's Porsche racing involvement.
"My wife and I were fortunate to know Bob Akin, his wife and children, and we share their loss of this fine man. Even after Bob retired from competitive racing in 1991, the Akins sent us mistletoe branches every year at Christmas. We will miss him," said Springer.
Springer noted that Akin was not only a successful and talented Porsche racer, but he was a mentor to many young drivers and team owners, helping them through the difficult process of maturing into successful motorsports competitors.
Betty Jo Turner, editor of Porsche Panorama, the monthly magazine for the national Porsche Club of America, said Akin represented the ultimate Porsche privateer as both a competitor and a gentleman.
"Not only was Bob a fast driver, and a meticulous race car owner and preparer, but he embodied the spirit of the best of the private Porsche racer, spending his own time and money to help elevate Porsche to the most successful IMSA marque during the 1970's and '80s. Porsche owners are also grateful to Akin for his efforts as a collector, car owner, and vintage racer as he has helped keep many famous race cars running for all of us to enjoy," said Ms. Turner.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Ellen Akin of Pocantico Hills, NY, his children Susan E. Akin of Sleepy Hallow, NY, Robert M. Akin IV of Manhattan Beach, CA, and Johanna Akin Stolecki of Cortlandt Manor, NY; his brother William D. Akin of Montauk, NY, and three grandchildren, Conor Mook, 8, Ian Mook, 6, and Emily Stoelcki, 3.
Bob Akin was born on March 6, 1936, in North Tarrytown and was raised in Sleepy Hollow Manor. He was educated at Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY, and received a BS and MBA from Columbia University.
He spent his professional career at Hudson Wire Company in Ossining, NY, a manufacturer of advanced technology conductors for applications ranging from aerospace and medical. The company was founded in 1902 by his grandfather, Robert M. Akin, and was operated by the Akin family for three generations. Mr. Akin joined the family business in 1955 while still in college, became president of Hudson Wire Company in 1974, and continued in that role through his retirement in 1995, having organized the sale of the company to Phelps Dodge Corp. in 1989. He was a member of the Electrical Manufacturers Club.
Akin started racing in 1957 at the drag strip in a supercharged Ford Thunderbird, winning a trophy and going on to a regional championship. In 1959, after his first road race in Vineland, NJ, in an Alfa, he won his first race at Bridgehampton on Long Island. He then raced Formula Junior (1960), and moved up to a Ferrari 500TRC in 1961, competing against the likes of Roger Penske and Bob Holbert.
He retired in 1961 to concentrate on his business - Hudson Wire - but returned to racing in 1973, running a 1956 Lotus XI in the emerging vintage car arena. In 1979, he started his 12-year IMSA racing stint, with the Sebring wins and six starts at Le Mans (best finish - 4th in 1984). He is best known for the #5 Red Coca-Cola Porsche 935s and 962 that graced the IMSA fields in the '80s.
Akin also wrote a regular column during that period for Road & Track magazine, and continued to use his communications skills in recent years with WTBS-TV, ESPN and the Speedvision (now called Speed Channel) Television Network as a race commentator.
Akin was a member of the Board of Trustees of Hackley School for 30 years, beginning in 1972, and served as Board President from 1980 to 1990.He was also a long-time member of the school's Alumni Association board of directors, serving as its president in 1971-72. He was awarded the Hackley Medal of Honor for distinguished service to the school in 1990. In the 1950s, Mr. Akin was also a competitive sport fisherman, and a member of the Montauk Yacht Club team that won the United States Atlantic Tuna Tournament for three years in the late 50s.
Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4 at Kisco Presbyterian Church, Mt. Kisco, NY. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Robert M. Akin Memorial Fund at Hackley School, 293 Benedict Avenue, Tarrytown, NY 10591.