Bob Bondurant

Full Name:
Robert L Bondurant
Born:
27th April 1933 (Age 85)
Evanston, Illinois
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Raised in the Los Angeles suburbs, Bob Bondurant raced motorbikes when 18 years old before acquiring a Morgan Plus Four in 1956. Winning regional SCCA events with a Chevrolet Corvette just three years later, he was crowned West Coast B Production Champion in 1959.

Sports cars and Formula 1

Bondurant joined Shelby American in 1963 and was part of the team that competed in the following year’s International Championship of Makes. Fifth in the Sebring 12 Hours, he was fourth on his debut at Le Mans when sharing his Shelby Cobra with Dan Gurney, winning the GT class in the process. Third at Daytona (with Richie Ginther and a Ford GT40) and fourth at Sebring (Jo Schlesser, Cobra) followed a year later.

A Formula 1 test in the unique Derrington-Francis-ATS at Monza in September 1964 ended when he crashed heavily at Lesmo when something broke. Fortunate to escape injury, he was entered for the following year’s Italian Grand Prix in a Scuderia Centro Sud BRM P57. However, he declined that opportunity to race John Willment’s Lotus 35-Ford in the supporting Formula 3 race instead which he won on aggregate.

His F1 debut soon followed for he started the final two GPs of 1965 – finishing ninth in America with a North American Racing Team Ferrari 158 and a retiree with Reg Parnell’s Lotus 33-BRM in Mexico.

He drove a private BRM P261 in the 1966 World Championship and was fourth (and last) in Monaco. He repeated that result in the Nürburgring 1000Kms with a works Porsche 906 and advised John Frankenheimer during filming of the movie Grand Prix. His year ended with a couple of unremarkable North American GP appearances for Eagle.

The end of his racing career and beginning of the school

Bondurant switched to the United States Road Racing Championship in 1967 as Pete Revson’s team-mate in a pair of Dana-sponsored McLaren/Elva-Chevrolets. But he crashed at Watkins Glen on June 25 1967 when his steering arm failed at over 140mph. The car somersaulted eight times and Bondurant broke both legs, fractured a shoulder and suffered concussion. Although he did race in Formula 5000 during the early 1970s, those injuries effectively ended Bondurant’s mainstream racing career.

Bondurant worked at Carroll Shelby’s racing school at Riverside before starting his own rival concern in March 1968. That Orange County-based operation had famous clientele. Two of his earliest pupils were actors Paul Newman and Robert Wagner as they prepared to film Winning, a movie which Bondurant also worked on behind the scenes.

The Bob Bondurant Performance School moved to Ontario Speedway in 1970 before settling at Sears Point three years later. Since 1990, it has been based at a purpose-built facility at Firebird Raceway to the south of Phoenix, Arizona.