In Memoriam: Art Pilla, #12
From: Bob Weeman
Date: October 10, 2015
It is with a heavy heart that I write this, reminiscing about my first meeting with Art, must have been 1994 at Bridgehampton racetrack. Being a novice trackie, and in my typical fashion, on a 3 day event at the Bridge I got the starting time wrong for the Sunday session. With that, my assigned instructor was already out so they made an announcement on the loud speaker, asking if anyone would volunteer – and Art stepped up to the plate. If you knew anything about the Bridge there wasn’t much margin for error, with sand on both sides of the track, which would cause the car to roll. So prior to Art, my instructor was drilling into my head to tap the brakes at the end of the straight to set up for the downhill right-hander.
So first time out with Art, at the end of the straight (doing approximately 130 mph) he said, “Keep your foot in it and DON’T lift!” I was never so scared and exhilarated at the same time. Then, going into the Light Bulb, he saw the line I was taught, grabbed the wheel with this left hand and said, “This is the line you want.” I was in awe and to this day he still gives me the inspiration to be a true gentleman racer.
Coincidentally, 20 years later, I befriended Stephan & Astrid at Summit Point racetrack, and developed a camarderie and friendship, and also came to know that Art was Astrid’s dad. Since then, I had the opportunity to be in his company several times and came to know that we have several things in common including the sciences, orthodontics, and mutual friends.
Art will be missed and will always be a role model to me in how to enjoy life, in the fast lane!
I am so sorry to hear about Art, he will be missed. I was always happy to see him at events and he always had time to stop and talk. Stephan was my first instructor and I was his first student. We would joke about how since I am an instructor now, Stephan is a Grand Instructor and Art the Great-Grand Instructor-in-law…. I am thinking about you guys….
July 28, 2015
I was your student in the yellow run group 3 years ago and was driving an 08 Red Cayman # 163. While we were out on the course and you giving me some pointers, we had a silver Audi show up in our mirrors. You quickly told me to give him a point-by and get rid of him. When the Audi passed us we were both taken back by the fact that it was a station wagon. You then instructed me to catch the Audi as we could not be passed by a wagon. We both had a good laugh. As a note, the Audi was driven by an instructor, Ken Casterline.
As you predicted, I have moved from the yellow run group to white and now driving a SP2 944 Cup. Instructors like you have made a difference in my driving; thanks so much.
Get well and hope to see you at a DE soon. Our prayers are with you.
July 27, 2015
Ho Astrid- Ford Shaw. We have met a few times. Tough times for you. Please ask your Dad if he remembers being the “Velvet Hammer” for me, especially at Bridgehampton. (Code word for straightening out some idiot driver). Also does he remember bailing me out at Bridgehampton by taking over a couple (wife only spoke french) and I knew Art did. as she had “wandered” off the flagging station and needed to understand that that was a bit unsafe as cars were on the track. Art took the couple for the event, spoke a lot of french and they really enjoyed themselves. Another Bridgehampton story. So Art passes me (with a signal of course) in his 935. I look over and as his rear wheels were very big and very sticky, he is proceeding to peel the asphalt off the track. Way cool, but what was even cooler was that I tuck in behind him, he downshifts and the FLAMES roll over my hood following the slipstream. I did enjoy watching him have to give many passing signals when he had to drive his Dave White prepared 944. Left arm got quite a work out. Only time many of us got a chance to pass him. My wife Mona says she and your Dad started in the same run group and used to chase each other around, until Art got faster (technique) and way more horsepower. I enjoyed racing with your Dad. Remember fondly the Double 50 at the Glen. 50 years of the Glen and 50 years of Porsche. I get put in the same group as your Dad, because I guess my RS just made the cutoff or they did not know where to stick me. Anyway, we have 935’s, 908’s 962’s, 917’s etc. Blew my doors off, most fun I ever had being out with the big boys. I have a great picture that Dom Miliano took of your Dad and I standing outside our cars in the staging area just before we are to go out. Your Dad was always there for me when I was a Chief Instructor running a track event. Always helping out, taking that “left behind student”. Please send my best.
July 25, 2015
So sorry to hear about your Dad.
He is an exceptional person and fun to be around.
He is also a very good driver and age does not seemed to slow him down very much.
I think I was his first DE instructor that took place many years ago at Watkins Glen.
We were having a great time with improvement taking place every lap.
I think it was in the latter part of the second day when his exuberance overcame his talent and we spun in the off camber, knocking the muffler off and damaged it to the point where we could not install it again.
Art, not being the guy who would give up having such a good time, immediately called Tony Henderson and asked him to bring another muffler to the Glen.
Well Tony did as asked, and of course Art took him out to dinner that night.
Early the next morning Tony got to the track and installed the muffler.
I don’t think we even missed one run session.
The smile on Art’s face was from ear to ear and he was thoroughly “hooked”.
I guess that was the beginning of a “very slippery slope”, because soon after he was buying race cars and off driving in IMSA races.
He never lost his enthuism for NNJR DE’s as evidenced by his continued participation.
He must have inspired you as well and it is a pleasure knowing you and your Dad.
Take care of him and I hope he returns to good health.
From: Dyke Hensen
July 27, 2015
Way back in the late 80’s when I was just beginning with the Porsche Club, the green and yellow students would wait till the end of the day and stand by the fencing to watch the “Red Run Group” go out and put down some times. At the time your Dad was driving a monster 935 I believe. We would wait for Art, Dick Howe and all the other REALLY FAST drivers to put down some times.
A big group of us students would be hanging out buy the rusty old fences with our stop watches clicking away as all these really fast guys flew by. I remember one time in particular while at Bridge Hampton standing on the at the crest of the long uphill straight on the bridge at the end of the straight. We were all waiting for the “crazy” red run group drivers to fly under the bridge and then dive down the hill taking the “kink” of turn one with no brakes! We all looked at each other in awe and said “I don’t think they hit the brakes!” I remember thinking, someday I’m going to be able to do that.
Your dad is fast and fearless on the racetrack, but the difference between your father and the rest of the “really fast guys” is that he is really the defination of the “Gentleman Racer”. He can tell you about his line or show up with, a jack, a tire gage, a 19mm socket or anything needed to help out and always under thatt Englis Ascot Cap there has been a beaming smile, infectious laugh, and even bigger personality. How we loved those days at the Bridge hearing the stories of Sebring and all the other “exotic” race tracks your dad had raced on. Everybody wanted to sit a the table where he was holding court.
I loved seeing both of you at the track the last couple of years. I remember asking Art “is that your new Turbo?”, and he was so proud when he said “no, that’s my daughter’s.”
Now, nearly 30 years later, as a PCA chief instructor, I can only hope to half of the influence your father has had for some many of us. My “ride” is always open when you get him back to an event.
So, please, please tell him if anybody can beat whatever he is dealing with, it is him. You can tell him Dyke said “Art, Don’t Lift”. He’ll understand, something he told me many, many years ago.
From: Mike Carr, Chief Instructor, Porsche Club of America – Northern New Jersey Region
As an NNJR-PCA chief instructor, whenever anyone asked for a recommendation for an instructor, whether it was a beginner or an experienced driver, I always thought of Art first. He got along with everyone. Astrid knows this story, but Art and I had a running joke between us whenever I was chief of the event and Art’s student went off the track and had to come into the pits to explain what happened. As soon as I saw Art was in the car I would say, “Not you again!”, totally horrifying his student. I must admit this happened very rarely. It got to the point that he was grinning before the car even got to me in the pits. Thanks Art, for the laughs and the good times and everything else.
Thank you to everyone who wrote a few words to share.
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