The reason the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has worked so well for so long is that its championship winner namesake was so good at showing students the techniques to win driving. Since it was founded in February 1968, the school claims to have helped more than 500,000 students from around the world. They might all wish to thank the founder, Robert Lewis Bondurant, who died on November 12 in Paradise Valley, Arizona at the age of 88.
Not long after his birth in Illinois in 1933, his parents moved to Westlake Village, California. He got his first taste of racing when he was 8 when his dad took him to dwarf racing. At the age of 14 Bondurant had his first motorcycle and at 16 he was Indian e Harley Davidson Bikes.
His racing career on four wheels began at the age of 23 in 1956 at the wheel of a Morgan Plus 4. He would eventually enter the field competing against other SoCal drivers such as Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney and Richie Ginther, but after three years of Corvette victories, he moved on to racing for Shelby and driving the Cobra. As part of the migration of US drivers to Europe in the mid-1960s, it claimed a class a win Le Mans in 1964 driving the Cobra Daytona Coupe with navigator Dan Gurney, and in 1965, he was part of the driving team that put the FIA International Constructors’ Championship Trophy in Ford dispay window.
After a short winning streak in F1, moved to the Can-Am series and the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). During a race in Watkins Glen in 1967 in the USRRC, the steering arm on his McLaren Elva Mark II broke. He flipped over eight times in the accident, his crushed feet landing him in hospitals and in rehab. While recovering, he came up with the idea for his own driving school, which he opened in 1968 at Orange County International Raceway to teach “The Bondurant Method”.
Paul Newman and Robert Wagner were in second class overall, and Bondurant was still helping celebrities learn the trade when Christian Bale was dating came to train for his role in Ford vs. Ferrari. Bondurant continued to race however, returning to Watkins Glen as early as 1968 for the USRRC race. Although he was never the same as before the accident, he did not hang his helmet on a nail until the age of 79.
The Bondurant driving school broke down in 2018, filing for bankruptcy and closing briefly. The new owners bought the school and his estate, now called the Radford Racing School, also in Chandler, Arizona, still driving Dodge products, and still led by many of the pre-bankruptcy instructors. Radford CEO Mark Kessler released a statement in which he read, in part, “The Radford Racing School team is saddened to learn of Bob Bondurant’s passing … Bob has dedicated his life to helping others develop their driving skills, both on the road and on the track, training some of the biggest names of racing, celebrities, professional athletes and everyday drivers who would continue to credit his teaching methods to keep them safe behind the wheel. “
However, the new owners did not buy the Bondurant name. Bob Bondurant leaves his wife Pat, who remains president and CEO of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, who now does business as Bondurant Racing School. There is no such effective school yet, but a splash page says it will return in 2022.