Bob Bondurant, racing driver who trained actors on the track, dies at 88

Bob Bondurant, a master racing driver who was best known for his driving school in California and later Arizona, where he taught actors like Paul Newman, Tom Cruise and Christian Bale for their on-screen racing roles, died Nov. 12 in Paradise Valley, Arizona. He was 88 years old.

A death certificate provided by his wife, Pat Bondurant, indicated that he had a « suspected immune reaction related to vaccinations ». He cited cerebrovascular disease and cerebral arterial stenosis as underlying conditions. He died in an assisted living facility.

Mr. Bondurant began to gain attention in the racing world in 1959, when he won 18 of the 20 races he entered behind the wheel of a Corvette.

“I’m an original Californian hot rodder who turned glow when I started winning everything in my Corvettes,” he said. National Corvette Museum, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2016.

He continued to regularly win Corvette races in the 1960s, but he also began to race successfully in other open-wheeled Formula 1 sports cars and machines, including for the elite Ferrari team. from 1965 to 66.

“He was at the top of the line,” said Pierre Brock, who designed the Shelby Daytona Cobra coupe that Mr. Bondurant drove with Dan Gurney to take first place in the GT, or Grand Touring, category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Mans in 1964.

But in 1967, Mr Bondurant crashed during a race at what is now Watkins Glen International in upstate New York, suffering from multiple injuries including broken bones in both feet and a broken bone. right ankle. It was a turning point.

At the hospital, he had the idea of ​​opening a school that would teach car enthusiasts about safe and defensive driving.

The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving opened in early 1968 at the Orange County International Raceway in Irvine, California. “We want to make a better pilot, rather than making a faster pilot,” he told the Los Angeles Times at the time. He also taught race car driving, motorcycling and drag racing.

Even before opening the school, Mr. Bondurant had well-known students. he had coached James Garner and Yves Montand behind the wheel of Formula 1 cars for the 1966 John Frankenheimer film, « Grand Prix. » Mr. Bondurant, who was a stuntman and technical advisor to the film, wore 16-millimeter cameras on the sides of his helmet to record the racing action on the track while moving at 150 miles per hour.

Credit…Universal, via Everett Collection

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