Valentine's Day has a special meaning at The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix. Feb. 14 marks the 44th anniversary of the school's opening in 1968.
Bob Bondurant led the Shelby American team to the International Manufacturers Championship in 1965, with seven sports-car victories in Europe and the United States. But his driving career was cut short by a crash two years later. A steering arm broke and his McLaren Can-Am car flipped eight times, leaving Bondurant with back, rib, leg and foot injuries. He wasn't expected to walk again, but he proved the doctors wrong.
He rebounded in 1968, opening the Bondurant Driving School at Orange County International Raceway in Irvine, Calif. The school moved to The Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, Calif., in 1970 and to Sears Point (now Infineon) Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., in 1973. The current Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving opened at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix in 1990.
Why open a racing school on Valentine's Day? "Starting a world-class high-performance driving school felt really good in my heart," Bondurant explained.
Bondurant's first class consisted of only three students. The second class drew actors Paul Newman and Robert Wagner, who were training for the film Winning. Bondurant acted as technical advisor, camera-car driver and actor-instructor for the film.
"Working with Paul Newman and Robert Wagner on Winning was a great experience for the Bondurant School. The exposure helped establish my reputation and opened the door to so many people who wanted to become better drivers, both on the track and on the street," Bondurant noted.
The school has come a long way from its initial lineup of three Datsuns, a Lola T70 Can-Am car and a Formula Vee racer. The Bondurant School is now the largest purpose-built driving school in the world, offering courses in high-performance driving, advanced road racing, highway safety, military training and executive protection to thousands of students each year. They learn in more than 200 race-prepared vehicles, from Chevrolet Grand Sport, Z06 and ZR1 Corvettes to Chevrolet SS Camaro, Sonic and Tahoe models to Formula Mazda open-wheel cars, go-karts and various military vehicles.
With the recent announcement of an international division and continuous enhancements to the Phoenix operation, the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving is ready for the next 44 years.
Bondurant Enterprises provides a full range of driving training, from grooming future race stars to helping families improve their driving skills to hosting unique corporate events. Bob Bondurant, an internationally recognized leader in advanced driving training, opened the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in 1968. The largest purpose-built driving school in the world, it features a 15-turn, 1.6-mile road course, an eight-acre asphalt pad for advanced training and more than 200 race-prepared vehicles, sedans and open-wheel cars. Situated on Firebird Raceway's 600 acres of excitement in Phoenix, Ariz., the purpose-built facility has access to three additional race tracks, a watersports lake and three skid pads. Bondurant SuperKart School offers two karting tracks with state-of-the-art equipment and training. Bondurant Trackside is the premier leader in OEM events, showcasing manufacturer's vehicles.