Bob Bondurant will turn 81 next month, but the legendary racer and driving educator shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Take, for example, his induction into the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday.
Bondurant, who has been well known in Corvette circles for decades, has run the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, now in Arizona, for the past 46 years.
He and five other racing standouts, including his longtime friend Dan Gurney, were members of the SCCA Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014. Bondurant was cited for his lifelong contribution to motorsports and to the SCCA.
“It’s great that so many fans submitted letters for my induction,” Bondurant said. “That means so much to me to know just how many people appreciate my contribution to racing and education. It’s fantastic.”
Bondurant’s history with the SCCA goes way back. He was vice president of the organization in 1959-60 and finished first in several of the organization’s races, and his school was the first to be SCCA certified for racing licenses.
Since opening in 1968, the Bondurant school’s impact has been tremendous. It has trained almost 500,000 people – everyone from professional racers to executives, from law enforcement officers and military specialists to performance enthusiasts and teen drivers – helping turn them into safer and more proficient drivers on the track, street, and highway.
“We started small but with the same vision we have today: offer professional and everyday drivers the best track-intensive training in the world,” Bondurant said. Bondurant is a living legend in the racing world in so many ways. He’s driven with and for the best at tracks around the world behind the wheel of cars like Corvettes, Cobras, Lolas, and Ford GT40s. He’s worked for other automotive legends like Enzo Ferrari and Carroll Shelby.
Of course, Corvette enthusiasts remember his standout performances in SCCA competition from 1960 to 1963, when he won 30 of his 32 races in the Shelly Washburn 1959 Corvette and a 1963 Z06 Sting Ray. In 1965, he continued his success on the track for Shelby, winning seven of 10 races to help the Shelby American team become the only U.S. team ever to win the FIAGT Championship.
That led to an invitation by Ferrari, whose GTOs he beat the year before, to compete in the Formula 1 World Championship, which Bondurant lists as his most cherished achievement.
Of course, racing is a dangerous business, and unfortunately Bondurant found that out first hand in 1967 when the steering arm of his McLaren MARK II CanAm broke while he was doing 150 mph entering a corner at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
“I can remember seeing the tops of the trees and praying on the way down,” Bondurant said. “When I came to, I was in the hospital, and the doctors were telling me I would never walk again.”
That terrible misfortune, however, ended up with a wonderful silver lining, however, as it led to his decision to open the Bondurant School, which he envisioned while in the hospital with a concussion, three broken ribs, two broken legs and knees, and both feet and ankles crushed.
If not for the accident, countless people who are disabled or partially paralyzed might never have driven again as the Bondurant school has provided courses on how to use hand controls beginning soon after the accident threatened his own mobility.
“My heart feels thankful when I know I am one of the few places in the world who can give a disabled or partially paralyzed person an opportunity to drive a car again,” Bondurant said. “It just feels great.”
Photo Credit: Philip Royle
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