Although He certainly left his mark upon the Thousands who went thru His Driving School’s Doors…
Suppose it was most appropriate that I first heard the news of Bob bondurant’s passing during this year’s Petit Le Mans when listening to John Hindhaugh, Jeremey Shaw, Johnny Mowlen and Shea Adam via IMSA Radio. As it was a Choked Up Jeremy Shaw announcing his Death, as we now know that Bondurant Died on November 12th in Paradise Valley, Arizona at the Age of 88.
And I’ve long known some of the exploits of the man I called Bondo’ due to his stint at Shelby American as one of ‘Ol Shel’s Ace Cobra Drivers.
Since we All know that Bondurant’s crowning motorsports achievement was winning the GT Class in the 1964 24 Heurs du Mans, when he and Co-Driver Dan Gurney finished 4th Overall aboard one of Carroll Shelby’s Nasty Cobra Daytona Coupes. For which Bondurant then helped Shelby American win the 1965 FIA GT Manufacturers Championship in these All Conquering 289cid V-8 Daytona Coupes which Decimated Enzo Ferrari’s 250 GTO’s that year. Being the Only American marque in History to ever win this Championship!
Yet Bondo’ first cut his teeth racing Indian Motorcycles on Oval Dirt tracks as a teenager before being noticed for winning an SCCA B Production West Coast Championship behind the wheel of his 1957 Corvette in 1959, winning 18 of 20 races!
This impressed Santa Barbra, California Chevrolet Dealer Shelly Wasburn who hired Bondurant to drive his #614 Corvette beginning in 1961 to 1963.
Ironically, I now feel I’ve seen one of these #614 Vette’s racing in some SOVREN Vintage Racing Historics in the past without knowing the significance of the racecar. Perhaps at the hands of Susan Armstrong? Whose Hubby’ tom Armstrong was part of the formation of PacWest Racing.
As I Swear I saw that Vette’, and certain it was a light blue and may be a ’63 Splint Window? Ah, how thoust Memory plays Tricks upon Yuhs when you cannot See Anythingy’
Reportedly Bondo’ won a stellar 30 of 32 races between 1960-1963! Including winning the ’62 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix aboard one of Washburn’s Corvettes. With some of his most memorable battles being against another Corvette racer named Dave MacDonald.
Interestingly, both MacDonald and Bondurant’s services were snapped up by Carroll Shelby for his soon Dominant (Shelby American) Cobra race team, which now makes me wonder what lured them away from their Bowtie’ rides. Hmm, cubic Dollars or the fact that the Corvettes were No match for the Cobras?
As Bondurant claims Shelby had been promising to build the Cobra awhile and that it would beat the Corvettes to which Bondo’ said bullshit! Then it finally happened and Carroll told Bob he’d be driving a Cobra in Colorado in ’63 where Bondurant won first time out…
Although Sadly, Indianapolis 500 Diehards will know that 27 year old MacDonald perished in the 1964 Indy 500 along with Eddie Sachs in a Fiery Accident.
While I always forget that Bondurant was a Formula 1 Driver, albeit briefly with just nine starts between 1965-1966 for Ferrari’s U.S. Importer’s North American Racing team, (NART) Reg Parnell’s BRM and Dan Gurney’s Anglo American Racers, the European Arm of (AAR) All American Racers. With Bondurant’s best finish being fourth place in the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix in a Privateer BRM.
Bob also drove a Ford GT40 Mk II and Ferrari 365/P2 amongst the many racecars he “Strapped On” during his career.
But surely bob’s better known for his Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, which he formulated his plans for while recovering from a Mega Shunt at Watkins Glen during a 1967 Can Am race. As bondo’s McLaren flipped eight times after suffering a mechanical failure at 150mph! And Doctor’s told him He may Never Walk again…
As the idea came to Bob in Hospital bed after he’d taught Actor James Gardner how to drive racing cars for the iconic 1966 movie Grand Prix. As Bondurant’s Driving School opened in 1968 at Orange County International Raceway and two of his first pupils were Paul Newman and Robert Wagner for their upcoming Film Winning. While tom “I Feel the Need, The Need for Speed” Cruise, Nicholas Cage and Christian Vale were just a few of the apparently Half Million Students to seek tutelage at Bondurant’s school over it’s 50-plus years before filing for Bankruptcy in 2019.
Yet for Mwah, I have two personal memories regarding Bondo’. As the first is still seared into Thy Memorex’ some 26 years later! As it was my Debutante outing to whatever will be Sears Point Raceway for Mwah. The event was the 30th Anniversary of those legendous Cobra Daytona Coupes Championship at the Mollie Stone’s Historics at Sonoma Raceway.
In the paddock, for which I’ve got the pictures “Squirreled” away in a photo album, resplendent in Thar glorious Guardsman Blue paint with twin White stripes in the gleaming California Sun sat four of the six Cobra Daytona Coupes parked side-by-side!
I watched transfixed in sheer amazement from behind the “ropes” as Bondo’, apparently wearing his original Cobra team jacket signed an autograph for somebody by using the roof of one of the Daytona’s as his “Clipboard!”
As Bondurant’s “John Hancock” was the one signature I always coveted from those 1960’s “Heros” but never got. As I just thought it would be ultra cool to have it along with ‘Ol Shel’s, (Shelby) Phil Hill’s and Dan Gurney’s, for which I’ve gotten All of over the years when I could still See…
As I Don’t really care about the autographs per sai, rather I just enjoy the actual meeting of the Drivers instead, with some of my fondest memories being from meeting Stefan Johansson, Billy roe, Adrian Fernandez, Didier Theys and countless others at various Legend’s Day outings at Mother Speedway with Indy 500 Sherpa Carpets!
Meanwhile it’s hard to believe it was 24 years ago when I traveled to The Valley of The Sun to watch Blogmeister Miguel partake in a One Day outing of Bondurant’s Driving School at Phoenix International Raceway, when Bob’s School was under the Auspices of the Blue Oval. As I was even allowed to “Shadow” Miguel during the initial Driver’s briefing before they got into their respective Formula Ford Single Seater mounts.
And then I had the privilege of Ridin’ Shotgun in one of the school’s Ford Taurus SHO “Sedan” Pace Cars with (then) School Instructor and Racing Driver Tim Moser.
As one of his fellow Instructors casualy told me while Belting me into the front passenger seat said: Wait until Turn 3 and ask him about racing a Dodge viper! As Tim obliged and quicly told me about his adventures of racing one of those Narly Chamberlin Engineering FIA GT2 Viper GTS/R’s while pacing the row of Formula ford Cadets behind him…
So even though your Blind Word Butcher never got his “Dream” of driving a racing car, I do feel like an Honourary Bondurant participant thanks to Joyce who made my day also special at PIR nearly a quarter centry ago! Not to mention Snowbyrd MJ’ who bought me a Bitchin’, as No Fenders Moniker King Randal would say Bondurant Driving School Windbreaker…