Bob Bondurant, The Man Who Taught Us How To Drive (Fast)

Jim Shane
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Julia LaPalme

Prior to opening his school in 1968, Bob Bondurant slid Indian motorcycles around dirt ovals, won the GT Class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Cobra 289, and raced for Ferrari's Formula 1 team. His racing career ended when a steering arm in his McLaren broke at 150 mph, causing the Can-Am car to flip eight times.

The long row of brand-new Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays in front of the office reminded me that the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has come a long way since 1968, when we taught students how to race with a handful of Datsuns. Maybe that’s why Bob Bondurant invited past instructors back to the school to celebrate forty-six years of fast driving and nearly half a million students. He told us, “I wanted all the instructors to see what they helped me build.”

About three dozen of us were able to attend. Some of us aren’t famous (yours truly), but some are: Buddy Rice, 2004 Indy 500 champion; Johnny O’Connell, Corvette Racing driver and owner of more class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans than any other American; Dominic Dobson, Indy car driver; Parker Johnstone, Indy car driver; Bill Cooper, famous for teaching Dale Earnhardt how to drive a road-racing car; and Wilbur Shaw, Jr., one of the very first instructors (and son of the three-time Indy 500 winner).

Bob Bondurant invited us to drive Corvette C7s on the school’s dedicated teaching loop at the big facility, and by a miracle it did not result in a fireball that could be seen in nearby Phoenix. Later, we told war stories, most of which involved bad behavior during after-hours rat racing. “It was great to hear all the things that happened that I never knew about before,” Bob Bondurant said.

The author worked at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving from 1971 to 1973.

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