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GTP: Bob Akin Racing

August 15, 2009 by Marshall Pruett 

One of the featured cars at the 2009 edition of the Monterey Historics is the Bob Akin Racing Porsche 962 from 1985. Piloted at the Historics by Bobby Akin Jr., the famous Coke-liveried 962 was resurrected after a frightening crash suffered by Akin Sr. when he was hit by a spinning John Paul Jr. at the 1985 Charlotte IMSA GTP race.

While Akin walked away unharmed, the same could not be said for his 962. After a long and careful restoration by renowned Porsche specialist Kevin Jeanette, Akin Jr., a successful IMSA racer in his own right (most notably while driving Jack Roush’s Ford Muston GTO cars), will give fans a great look at the red-and-white Porsche for the first time in almost 25 years.

Legendary Porsche sportscar entrant and driver Bob Akin, circa 1985.

Legendary Porsche sportscar entrant and driver Bob Akin, circa 1985.

In an interview I did this week with former Bob Akin Racing driver Hans Stuck, the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner had nothing but fond recollections of his time spent racing for the Akins in the 1980s.

“I had a fabulous relationship with the Akin family. They became good friends for me because they were very smart about racing in IMSA, but they also brought very much closeness to the team. As they say, ‘our family is your family,’ and this is exactly how they treated me. Bob’s wife, his son, his daughters – they are all very special to me. His son Bobby and I still keep in touch and email each other!”

As a factory driver for Porsche, Stuck was responsible for the testing and development of the IMSA-spec 962, but it when Akin Racing inquired about assistance from a factory driver for their 935, Stuck was quick to accept the offer.

“An opportunity came through Mr. Jurgen Barth at Porsche, and I was asked if I wanted to drive a Porsche 935 for an important customer in the United States. The 935 fascinated me, so I said ‘Yes!’ immediately. This was the start of great times for us and for me especially. With the Porsche 962, Bob Akin Racing was a very serious team. Myself, Jo Gartner and Bob Akin did many races together, including what I think must be one of the team’s biggest successes, the win at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1986. People ask me about this race victory today more than many other achievements in my career.”

Akin was well known as an IMSA team owner and driver, but Stuck made it clear that Bob Sr. was more than a businessman with a racing team. His driving skills were essential to the team’s success.

“Bob was a fantastic driver for what we call a ‘gentleman drivers.’ He was as fast as or faster than most of the drivers in the series — very, very good. He hired me and Jo Gartner as the professional drivers for the team and always knew best how to use us. He was a very smart businessman like that. He knew that his sponsors wanted the car to qualify as high as possible, so Bob never questioned this, never let his ego get in the way. Some team owners that also raced their cars insisted on qualifying, or starting the race because it made them feel important. Bob was never this way. He was very quick and very accomplished, but he allowed Jo and I to help the team when extra speed was needed. The trust we had in each other, and for us in him as our co-driver was magnificent.”

While Bob Akin passed away in 2002 at the age of 66 from injuries suffered while testing a Nissan GTP car at Road Atlanta, Stuck says he’s reminded of his old friend when he looks at the accomplishments of Akin’s son.

“Bobby is very much like his father. A very fast racecar driver and a very strong businessman. When we raced in GTP, Bobby was young but starting his own career in GTO and GTU. We even shared a car together at one race, a Porsche 944, and that was fun.

“My best memory of Bobby from those times was one night when we had dinner at the hotel we stayed at. Jo and Bobby were sharing a room across from mine, so I excused myself for a moment from the table, went and got a key to their room and turned up the heater to 95 degrees. We ate dinner for some time after that so it became very hot – like a sauna. When they opened the door it was like they were hit by the sun! They opened all the windows and kept the door open for quite some time so it could cool down and they could go to sleep. I still laugh when I think about this today!”

GrandTouringPrototype.com will have an in-depth video interview with Bobby Akin from the Monterey Historics, but in the meantime, enjoy the items below.

First is the 1985 Bob Akin Racing Press Kit.

(To see the fill-sized images, click the icon at the far right of the menu bar below)

(To see the fill-sized images, click the icon at the far right of the menu bar below)

Next, we have the 1985 Charlotte IMSA GTP race broadcast where Akin’s 962 was heavily damaged.

GTP: 1985 Charlotte IMSA GTP Race Broadcast pt 1 from GrandTouringPrototype.com on Vimeo.

GTP: 1985 Charlotte IMSA GTP Race Broadcast pt 2 from GrandTouringPrototype.com on Vimeo.

Finally, we have a brief photo gallery of the car in action in 1985 and from the Pre-Historics just last weekend. More photos will be added to the gallery over the weekend, so please check back.

(To see the fill-sized images, click the icon at the far right of the menu bar above)

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