Bob Bondurant

Born : April 27 1933
Deceased : November 12 2021

Biography Bob Bondurant

Robert Lewis Bondurant was born on April 27, 1933, to John Roper Bondurant and Ruth Williams Bondurant of Evanston, Illinois. His father owned two luxury car dealerships named “Bondurant Motors.” When Bob turned two years old, the family moved to Westwood Village, CA. Bob began his fascination with speed as a three-year-old on his first tricycle with playing cards on the spokes to simulate the noise. At age 8, his father introduced him to racing by taking him to Thursday night midget races.

1952 Bob Bondurant- Carroll Speedway #285
1952 Bob Bondurant- Carroll Speedway #285

The 2-wheel career

At the age of 12, after the divorce of his parents, Bob convinced his mother to purchase a Whizzer electric bike. That meant he could finish his newspaper delivery tour faster. By 14, he owned his first Indian motorcycle. After the devastating death of his mother at 16 years old, he started racing flat track and even bigger Indians and Harleys. His mother’s death left him inconsolable, which is where the seed of his fearlessness was realized.

Bob was then inducted as the youngest member of the “Galloping Gooses,” which eventually became “Hell’s Angels.” At 23 years old, he discovered that he had more control with four wheels than he did with two, and his racing career began in a Morgan Plus 4.

Bob Bondurant at the wheel of a Shelby Cobra

From the age of 23 to 34, Bob became one of the most iconic race car drivers in the world. He had won the National Corvette Title, Le Mans GT, the World Championship, and the Baja 500… Between 1961 and 1963, he won 30 out of 32 races in Corvettes. Bob Bondurant is the first and only American to bring the World SportsCar Championship trophy home to America in the legendary Shelby Daytona Coupe #26. He then rose to the highest level in racing with Ferrari in Formula 1 and prototypes.

Bondurant School

Bob’s Accident Watkins Glen 1967

Bondurant left the Formula 1 race series to race the even faster Can-Am cars with best friend and team driver, Peter Revson, in the Lola T70 Mark II. In 1967, a fateful race at Watkins Glen changed his entire career.  The steering arm of his car broke at a speed of over 200 Km/h.  An ambulance transported Bondurant to the hospital. During his stay in the hospital, Bob Bondurant overlooked his career, and he decided to start a driving and safety school. That way he could save the life of thousands of people who would possibly suffer a severe accident without the skills learnt by an ex racer. That was the start of the Bondurant School too. 

On February 14, 1968, Bob founded The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. For 50 years, it earned and held a reputation as the number-one racing school in the world. It credited Bob as “the global expert authority on driver training and safety.” Using his notorious racing skills, he copyrighted “The Bondurant Method.” Personally, he taught his hand-selected instructors how to educate the world to be better drivers.

Over 500,000 graduates

Bob Bondurant congratulates graduate Paul Newman
Bob Bondurant congratulates graduate Paul Newman

Bob and the Bondurant team graduated well over 500,000 students at his famous school, including Christian BalePaul NewmanClint EastwoodNicolas Cage, and Tom Cruise, to name a few. Bondurant was actively at the track every day, enthusiastically greeting his new students until he was well over 85 years old. He kept racing, too. 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 #72 ERA GT40.

Bob Bondurant and Porsche

Even though Bob Bondurant started his race career at the wheel of British cars like Morgand and Triumphs, he once had the opportunity to race a Porsche 356. In 1957, he finished 21st at the Preliminary Pomona. It doesn’t look like Bondurant loved the result a lot, as we have to wait till the mid-sixties to see him take the wheel of a Porsche again. In June 1966, Bob Bondurant is listed as driver of the 3 Porsche 906 Carrera 6 cars entered in the Nürburgring 1000km. Together with Paul Hawkins, Bondurant takes class victory and 4th overall.

1966 Nurburgring, Bondurant drove the Porsche 906E with Paul Hawkins, finishing 4th overall and 1st in GT. (Bondurant Collection)

In 1974, Bondurant races a Porsche 911 Carrera of the George Dyer racing team in 3 races in the USA and Canada. Best result is a 2nd place in the 4H of Ontario. In1977 later Bob takes the wheel of a Porsche 934 in the 100 miles of Sear Point. In 1978 and 1979 he competes in a Porsche 935, mainly for the Dick Barbour Racing Team. In 1981 he participates in the Daytona 24H driving a Thunderbird Swap Shop Porsche 935 with a 67th place overall as a result.

Bob Bondurant has had a worldwide impact on the motorsports industry, and his legacy will live on eternally as the Bondurant Racing School moves forward into the future, now under the name Radford Racing School.