Some might argue that it takes a pretty good eye to finish well in a race. Dr. Allan Robbins of Webster, NY knows that first-hand from two different perspectives. As the owner-driver of a 1970 Datsun 240Z, he has competed for years now in his favorite sport of vintage motor racing and earned his share of wins. His good eyes for the task are no accident — Dr. Robbins is also in private practice as one of the area’s leading surgeons of ophthalmology.
During last weekend’s U.S. Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, Rochester Motorsports caught up with Dr. Robbins in his paddock serviced by North American Racing & Restoration.
Dr. Robbins says he first came to the Rochester area when he attended the University of Rochester Medical Center. He said at that time he attended many races at nearby Watkins Glen International, and that, plus the beauty of the area, drew him to settle here and set up his practice.
Eventually, the dream he’d carried since his youth of driving race cars himself drove him to jump in a car and head for the track as a competitor.
Now, he has been racing for 20 years.
The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons describes the physician’s technical contributions to his field this way: In the early 1990s Dr. Robbins “became a principal investigator for VISX during the FDA clinical trials for photorefractive keratectomy. In 1997, Dr. Robbins helped introduce LASIK to the Rochester, N.Y.-market, and 2 years later, he was the first LASIK practitioner in upstate N.Y. to insert Intacs for the correction of myopia.” These achievements sound pretty important, even to those who may see, but not quite understand!
Speaking to a writer for the organization’s newsletter, EyeWorld, Dr. Robbins said that he sees parallels between eye surgery and racing in that “both need intense focus for short periods of time.” He also sees a connection in that eye surgeons are not content with less than 100 percent success and neither are racers.
Though he aims for first, at this year’s U.S. Vintage Grand Prix at The Glen, Dr. Robbins finished second in class and 13th overall in the Mike Stott Memorial Classic Endurance Race. His best time, according to SVRA official timesheets, was 2:19.790. Dr. Robbins’s co-driver in the Enduro was Tommy Fitzgerald, racer, owner, and chief mechanic of North American Racing & Restoration.
Dr. Robbins is just one of many Rochester and Finger Lakes area racers on the historic racing circuit. He is also one of many who are still working hard full-time at their professions while attempting to fit in a little racing along the way. Perhaps retirement for these drivers will bring more chances to take to the track when they may have even more opportunities to improve their skills and lap up wins.
Connie Ann Kirk writes a motor sports blog called Poetry in Motion: Vintage Speed. Also check out her homepage for more links to stories, Facebook, and Twitter.