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Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

‘85 Is Good Vintage for Race Driver

During the work week, Si Robin stays busy as chief executive of Sensor Systems, a Chatsworth company supplying antennas for commercial, military and business aircraft. But on some weekends, Robin tosses off the businessman duds and slides into one of his three vintage race cars to drive in racing competitions. Perhaps that’s not astounding – if it weren’t for the fact that Robin is 85 years old, an age when many seniors are persuaded to give up their keys. The San Fernando Valley executive has been racing since 1961, participating in up to 16 races a year at one time. In a concession to his years, he’s now scaled back to no more than a handful of races annually. Robin’s most recent race was in October in Austin, Texas, where he drove his 1963 Lotus, a model that cost $200,000 and can still hit 170 mph. Robin came in first among 520 drivers, something he doesn’t do often these days. “The quote of the day was ‘The old man beat me,’” joked Robin, who is often up against drivers half his age. Aside from the Lotus, his cars include a 1963 two-seat cherry red Alfa Romeo and a purple-and-white 1973 single-seat Formula Ford racer. “The only places you see cars like these are in museums,” Robin said, standing between the Alfa Romeo and Formula cars in one of Sensor Systems buildings. Throughout the Sensor Systems administrative offices are the accolades and mementos of two of Robin’s great loves – aviation and fast cars. Paintings of vintage aircraft and photos of Robin with famous pilots adorn the walls, mixed in with awards he has received form the Vintage Auto Racing Association. As much as Robin enjoys getting behind the wheel of his cars, he admits it is a costly hobby, not even counting the car itself. Just the expense of hauling the car, a motorhome, equipment, entry fees and maintenance adds up to several hundred thousand dollars, Robin said. A set of four tires carries a price tag of $2,000, for example. When competing in a race, Robin sometimes finds himself up against his son, Jeff, who also works at Sensor Systems. Jeff Robin, 64, has his own collection of race cars as well as motorcycles. Jeff said his father is not one to slow down, even at his age. “As long as he keeps his licenses, he’s still going to fly and still drive the cars,” the son said. – Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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