DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Somewhere upstairs, Bob Akin was smiling.
The sports car legend whose name was synonymous with Porsche, Coca-Cola and winning had to be happy as a pair of Porsche 911 RSRs decked out in the throwback Coke livery made famous by the Akin Porsches of the 1980s and ‘90s, wrapped up a 1-2 finish in the GT Le Mans class for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Akin’s son Bobby and his family were on hand at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta to witness it all in the Motul Petit Le Mans. And they were moved.
“It couldn’t be better,” Bobby Akin said. “Last race of the season, celebrating a championship, the race team was based here in Atlanta when the Coke deal was going on, so there’s so many connections that are overwhelmingly positive and special.”
With its fifth-place finish in class, No. 912 Porsche GT Team co-drivers Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor clinched the driver, team and manufacturer championships. No. 911 co-drivers Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet finished sixth in the race to secure second in the driver and team battles on a tiebreaker over No. 3 Corvette drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
For the season, the two Porsches collected six wins and six additional podiums to forge the 1-2 championship finish. For Bobby Akin, seeing the red-and-white Coke liveries that matched that of the No. 5 Porsche 962 that his dad co-drove to victory 33 years ago in the Sebring 12 Hours, filled him with emotion.
“When I first got wind that this might even happen – and it was just an idea quite some time ago between Porsche and Coke – I was so touched that they’d even attempt to put it together,” the younger Akin said. “With companies the size of Porsche and Coca-Cola, they’re not easy to pull off. It took a lot of dedication. Just the concept that they cared and they wanted to do it was amazing to me.”
The retro livery was revealed with a spectacular video showing the No. 911 in its typical full-season paint scheme driving from Porsche North America headquarters to Coca-Cola, since both are based in Atlanta. While at Coke, the car’s livery is magically transformed to the throwback Coke livery with the opening of a bottle of the soft drink.
“When they unveiled the car in Atlanta, I must tell you there were tears in my eyes,” Bobby Akin said. “To see that car and that livery and all the memories that it brought back. I was 14 at the time and I remember being picked up at the airport at Daytona to go over and see the car – the (Porsche) 935 at the time, I think, in ’80 when it first raced in the Coca-Cola colors all the way through to the last 962 14 years later.
“That was one of the most special times in my life. My dad and I were such close friends, and I can’t tell you what it meant to me. It’s truly an honor for me and my whole family in his honor. It’s just amazing. I think the right word is stunning.”
Akin said he made sure his children, who didn’t get to know their grandfather before he died in 2002, were at Michelin Raceway to feel Bob Akin’s spirit as well and the essence of family. Bobby Akin added that he and his immediate family remain part of the Porsche family to this day.
“You say Porsche family and I mean that,” he said. “It is amazing because, as big as they are, it’s still a family. There’s still that bond that they’ll reach out, out of the blue, because of something to do with the family. Myself as well, I’ve found things that I think Porsche might want for the museum or something and I’ll call them and they’re like, ‘Oh, we’d love that!’
“There is that constant reminder that it is a family, and Coca-Cola is the same way. One of the things I learned from my dad early on is that great brands need to treat that brand with reverence. One of those things is not having the short-term view all the time.
“Of course, they have to be nimble and change with evolving businesses, but they never forget the reverence of the brand and to protect that brand because it’s what they have. Part of that is they don’t really forget where they came from and all the people and all the things that came together in the past that made it possible to go forward. It’s really cool to see when that happens and to be a part of it.”