Miles Collier — artist, investor, philanthropist, noted authority on historic automobiles and SCM contributor — was named the recipient of the 2012 Bob Akin Award by the Road Racing Drivers Club at a dinner prior to the running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the season opener of the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
Each recipient of this honor, considered the top award in motorsports for amateur, vintage/historic or semi-professional drivers, is selected by Akin’s son Bobby, RRDC members Brian Redman and Archie Urciuoli, and approved by RRDC president Bobby Rahal.
The distinctive trophy was conceived by the RRDC in 2003 to honor the memory of longtime 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 a driver 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 sport of motor racing.
A retired business executive, Miles C. Collier is the founder of the Revs Institute for Automotive Research in Naples, Fla., which includes the Collier Collection, housing more than 100 important historic cars and bicycles from around the world. He is a practicing artist as well as the founding supporter of the Stanford-Revs initiative. For the last ten years, Collier has conducted a biennial symposium on Connoisseurship and the Collectible Automobile that brings together automobile collectors and faculty from around the world to discuss critical issues in collecting and preserving important historic automobiles.
As a race-car driver, Collier competed in SCCA New England Region in an E-Production Porsche Speedster in the late ’60s and ’70s. He raced vintage cars in the early ’80s, partnering with Bruce Jennings in Porsches, and was the first recipient of the SVRA Driver of the Year Award in 1984.
Collier’s interest in art was nurtured at Yale University where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Painting. However, family business intervened. After receiving an MBA from Columbia University, his business career was culminated after 25 years as Managing Partner of Collier Enterprises, in the 1995 decision to make painting his next career. In 1996, he entered the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, where he studied for three years with the noted Graham Nickson. Today, he paints professionally.
He serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Eckerd College, a small private liberal arts college with a national reputation.
Collier was presented the award by Urciuoli and Rahal. “Bob Akin was regrettably lost to us a little more than 10 years ago,” said Urciuoli. “Those who knew Bob knew that he was a hell of guy, a hell of a businessman, a hell of a racer. He was a trustee of the Hackley School (Tarrytown, N.Y.) and ran a very successful business. His Bob Akin Motorsports was a mainstay in historic racing and he did a lot for the sport in general. He was a great raconteur and authored many articles about motorsports and the like.
“We’re pleased to present this award to Miles Collier. Everyone who has had the pleasure of visiting his museum in Southwest Florida, as I have on several occasions,” added Urciuoli, will be awe-inspired by the great machinery there. It’s a real tribute to our sport, I think, that some of these cars which are priceless actually get out and get exercised on the race track in the way they were meant to be.”
“I’m obviously gobsmacked by this,” said Collier. “I would view it as a validation that fooling around with cars and the history of cars and the interrelationship between cars and modernity is not a completely fraudulent activity. And to receive this award in Bob Akin’s name is a very poignant kind of thing. He certainly was the avatar of the ‘car guy cum businessman/philanthropist/good guy,’ and we all aspire to that kind of thing.”
A message from Bobby Akin, who was unable to attend, was read during the presentation: “Miles had done more for the sport he loves than I could hope to recount. If I had to point out one thing that I find truly amazing is that Miles is constantly providing priceless cars to countless historic events so that people can enjoy seeing these cars race, often in the hands of some of the great drivers of our time (RRDC members Brian Redman, George Mandeville, John Morton, et al) all on his time and his financial risk. Sometimes they don’t come back just the way they left the shop. My guess is Miles says, ‘Well, it needed some work anyway.'”
Past RRDC Bob Akin Award honorees:
2003 – Sam Posey
2004 – Charlie Gibson
2005 – John Fitch
2006 – Jim Haynes
2007 – Cameron Argetsinger
2008 – Jim Downing
2009 – Steven J. Earle
2010 – Augie Pabst
2011 – Don Knowles
About the RRDC:
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety, and has evolved to serve the future of road racing by mentoring new drivers on both amateur and professional levels. The Club’s membership includes leading industry professionals, race officials and motorsports journalists, in addition to prominent racing names.
In 2011, the RRDC launched a free on-line training seminar – www.SAFEisFAST.com – featuring more than 30 RRDC members and other industry experts in high-quality videos covering subjects from physical and mental preparation to driving techniques, driver safety to car setup and sponsorship. The videos are updated regularly. Each week, a professional from the world of motor racing answers readers’ questions on the site in a feature called “Ask a Pro.”
President Bobby Rahal is the 1986 Indy 500 winner and is co-owner with David Letterman and Mike Lanigan of the 2004 Indianapolis 500-winning Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan Racing team. Ten-time SCCA National champion John Fergus (who also has three Pro Sports 2000 crowns and one IMSA championship) is the Club’s Vice President/Treasurer, and five-time SCCA National champion Tom Davey is the Secretary.
In addition to RRDC members lending their expertise to up-and-coming drivers, the Club presents three annual awards: the Phil Hill Award for rendering outstanding service to road racing; the Mark Donohue Award for personal spirit and performance at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs; and the Bob Akin Award – the top award presented to amateur and semi-professional racers – for speed with style, passion, sportsmanship and contribution to motorsports.
The RRDC also supports the Team USA Scholarship, which has been assisting young Americans in the early stages of their careers since 1990. Membership in the RRDC is by invitation only. Additional information on the organization may be found at www.rrdc.org.