Bob Akin was a success as an IMSA team owner and as a two-time winning driver of the Sebring 12 Hours.
Family background and first racing career
His family fortune derived from the Hudson Wire Company that had been formed by his grandfather in 1902. Akin became its President in 1974 and expanded the organisation into a leading component supplier to the aircraft and electronics industries before retiring in 1995. A keen sportsman for whom yachting and fishing had already taken his fancy, Akin’s later passion for motor racing would ultimately cost him his life.
An adult lifetime’s fascination with speed and adrenalin began in 1957 when competing in dragsters and powerboats. He switched to road racing by the end of the decade with John Fitch as his driver coach. However, that first flirtation with the sport only lasted until 1961 when he quit to concentrate on his business concerns.
Return to racing in sports cars
But an invitation to drive Sam Posey’s Mercedes-Benz 300SL in a 1973 VSCC of America event at Lime Rock reignited his racing bug. His long and fruitful IMSA career followed five years later but Akin’s debut in the Le Mans 12 Hours was less successful. Co-driver Bob Garretson destroyed their Dick Barbour-entered Porsche 935 at the Mulsanne Kink after 14 hours of the 1978 event.
Akin won the 1979 Sebring 12 Hours with a Porsche 935 when he, Rob McFarlin and Roy Woods benefited from the delays of others. The trio also finished third in the World Championship race at Watkins Glen that year. Akin became an owner/driver from 1980 and commissioned a series of his own 935 replicas although success was limited.
Frustrated by years of failure at Le Mans, Akin joined Brun Motorsport in 1984 for his final start in the event. At last he finished when sharing the fourth-placed Warsteiner Porsche 956B with the team owner and Leopold von Bayern.
Further success at Sebring
He continued in IMSA with a newly acquired Porsche 962 and won Sebring once again in 1986 despite losing a wheel three times. Team-mate Jo Gartner appropriately crossed the line on three wheels to take the chequered flag!
Akin stopped racing among the professionals in 1991 and retired from Hudson four years later. But he continued to compete in historic events and was testing a 1988 Nissan ZX-Turbo GTP at Road Atlanta when he crashed at Turn 4. The car burst into flames as it rolled over the barrier and into the trees.
The 66-year-old Bob Akin sustained multiple fractures to neck, left leg and right arm as well as third degree burns to his body. He was transferred to hospital in Atlanta but died three days later.