John Fitch receives 2005 RRDC Bob Akin Motorsports Award LIME ROCK, Conn. (Sept. 15, 2005) - The Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) named longtime racing driver and safety innovator John Fitch as the 2005 recipient of the Bob Akin Motorsports...
John Fitch receives 2005 RRDC Bob Akin Motorsports Award
LIME ROCK, Conn. (Sept. 15, 2005) - The Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) named longtime racing driver and safety innovator John Fitch as the 2005 recipient of the Bob Akin Motorsports Award at the Rolex Vintage Festival at Lime Rock Park on Labor Day weekend.
Each recipient is selected by Akin's son Bobby and RRDC members Brian Redman and Archie Urciuoli and approved by RRDC president Bobby Rahal.
Former RRDC president and racing champion Brian Redman, along with Ellen Akin, presented the third annual award to Fitch during a dinner celebrating the vintage-racing festivities at the track that Fitch helped design.
John Fitch has been a blue-water sailor, a fighter pilot, a test pilot, a professional racing driver, a team manager, race course director, prolific inventor, highway safety expert, automaker, entrepreneur and dreamer.
He was born John Cooper Fitch in Indianapolis, Ind., August 4, 1917, and is a descendent of the inventor of the steamboat. His stepfather was an executive with the old Stutz car company so Fitch witnessed auto racing at an early age, attending the Indianapolis 500 race in the passenger seat of a Stutz Bearcat at the Brickyard.
Fitch is also the first national champion of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the only American to be on the Mercedes-Benz factory team, driving GT and sports-racing cars in 1953 and 1955. He drove for the Briggs Cunningham team for 12 years, winning numerous races, including the first all-American win at the 12 Hours of Sebring (Fla.) in 1953 with co-driver Phil Walters.
He managed the Corvette teams at the Sebring races in 1956 and 1957, and recently published a book entitled "Racing with Mercedes," now available from www.szwedo.com/fitchbook.
Following his 18-year racing career, Fitch became a design consultant for race circuits as well as an industry-leading consultant in the field of automobile racing and highway safety systems.
Besides helping design Lime Rock Park, Fitch was its manager in the early days of the track's existence. He invented the Fitch Barrier for highways and several energy-absorbing barriers for racing.
In accepting the award, Fitch said, "It's a great honor to receive this award memorializing Bob Akin, someone I considered a friend and admired greatly both as a man and as a racing competitor. It is my hope that Bob's name can be a permanent part of the racing world by naming a racing safety device after him The Akin Barrier."
"John has been a true gentleman of racing for decades," said Redman. "In fact, some of the vintage vehicles on the track today were brand new when he first raced against them.
"We honor not only the on-track successes John has achieved, but also the safety innovations he has designed over the years, both on the track and off. His timeless enthusiasm for the sport and for making it safe are unsurpassed, and he truly exemplifies the qualities that qualify him for the Bob Akin Motorsports Award."
Akin's widow Ellen added, "John has been a friend of ours for years and I know Bob had always admired his talent not only as a driver but as an innovator. I know Bob would be very pleased with the selection of John Fitch as the recipient of the award in his name."
Sam Posey was the first recipient of the Bob Akin Motorsports Award in 2003, and the late Charlie Gibson received the award in 2004.
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 for his/her contributions to motorsports.
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).