Bob Bondurant has passed away in Paradise Valley, Arizona at 88 years old. Bondurant was present for some of the most iconic international motorsport moments during the 1960s. He had a racing career worthy of a feature-length movie. Bondurant would also found the performance driving school that beared his name. The Bondurant School would provide the expertise to allow Hollywood films to feature high-speed chases and car races. The school would also allow over a half-million students to learn how to experience the thrill of driving a performance car first-hand.
Bob Bondurant started his professional racing career racing Corvettes in the Western United States and quickly found his way into the international sports car circuit. He became a driver for Shelby during the early 1960s, where he would take a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1964 and the FIA World Sportscar Championship in 1965. Bondurant also made occasional appearances in Formula One Grands Prix.
During one of his race appearances, Jackie Stewart crashed into a telephone pole during the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix. Stewart would be trapped upside and covered in fuel. The Scottish driver would most likely have died if Bob Bondurant and Graham Hill did not come to Stewart’s rescue after they had both retired nearby. The experience led Stewart to begin his push for better safety regulations for cars and circuits in Formula One.
Also during the 1966 F1 season, Bob Bondurant served as the technical advisor on the film Grand Prix. He would also train the movie’s lead actor James Garner to drive the race cars featured in the movie, F2 cars mocked-up to look like F1 machinery. This would serve as the inspiration for the foundation of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. An idea that would be fully conceived as he recovered from a severe crash during a Can-Am crash at Watkins Glen.
This school’s impact would be even more significant than his racing career. Over the decades the school would attract Hollywood stars from Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood to Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise. It is claimed that over 500,000 students attended the school. Its successor institution currently operates as the Radford Racing School. Bondurant’s wife Pat hopes to open a revival school under her control with the Bondurant name to continue his legacy.