Bob Bondurant’s family has confirmed the death of the motorsport legend, he passed last week in Paradis Valley, Arizona at the age of 88. It’s always a sad day when we lose a fellow speed freak, and it seems like we’ve been losing them with increasing frequency as of late.
Bondurant was an absolute weapon behind the wheel, his resume includes the National Corvette Title, a Le Mans GT class win, a World Championship, and a Baja 500 win. While driving Corvettes from 1961 to 1963, he won 30 of 32 races held. In 1963 he started racing Ford Cobras for Caroll Shelby where he went on to become the only American to win the World SportsCar Championship for Shelby. A year later he won GT Class honors at the ’64 24 Hours of Le Mans where he co-drove with Dan Gurney.
And that was before he even became really successful.
He was a freelance hot foot for Ferrari in Formula 1 and prototypes, and he once saved Jackie Stewart from dying. He taught James Garner and Yves Montand how to race cars for the 1966 filming of the movie Grand Prix. In the late ’60s, he went to race a Lola T70 Mark II in the wild Can-Am series with his buddy Peter Revson.
The Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving was born at the Watkins Glen Can-Am race in 1967. The steering arm on Bondurant’s car broke at 150mph which culminated in the car violently flipping several times, breaking almost everything in his body. Instead of dying, this left him in traction at the hospital, tripping heavily on professional chemicals.
Apparently, Bondurant had a conversation with God who told him to start a driving and safety school. So he did.
On February 14, 1968, the Bondurant School of High-Performance driving was born. For the next 50 years, his school would become the number-one racing school in the world, graduating well over 500,000 students including Christian Bale, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Nicolas Cage, and Tom Cruise, to name a few. Eventually, Bondurant would become the operator of Dodge’s official SRT Racing School.
Bondurant’s last Championship was 1997 for the World Cup Challenge, racing for Steve Saleen. Bondurant retired from racing at 79 after winning his last race at Pomona Raceway in his No.72 ERA GT40.
This news comes at a time when Brock Yates just turned 85, Bob Lutz is about to turn 90 in February, and Jim Hall enters his 86th year. Rest In Peace, Bob, your lessons won’t be forgotten.