Bob Bondurant: Living Legend


by Tyler Baldwin

Posted on July 16, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 16 at 3:41 PM

Forget about the man behind the Dos Equis ad campaign.

Bob Bondurant is the most interesting man in the world.

He is the man behind the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. More than 500,000 people have graduated from the Chandler institution. 90% of NASCAR drivers have studied under the legend.

“I am a living legend,” jokes Bob Bondurant.

50 years ago Bob Bondurant ended the reign of Ferrari at Le Mans. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest endurance race. In 1964 driving Carroll Shelby's new Cobra Daytona Coupe with Dan Gurney, the two drivers were able to win the GT portion of the race. Ferrari had not been beaten in decades. 3 years later, Dan Gurney would win the whole thing. And, while celebrating, Gurney would become the first athlete to ever spray champagne in victory. Yes, that’s where that started.

In 1965 Bondurant won the FIA Manufacturers' World Championship for Ford and Shelby American.

That was about the time when Enzo Ferrari decided he needed to hire Bondurant.

“They had never been beaten in the World Manufacturers’ Championship.” Recalls Bob Bondurant, “And, I beat them on the 4th of July. I get a message from Enzo Ferrari’s office. He would like me to come down and meet him. Driving for Ferrari was really so cool.”

I one of his first races with Ferrari, his goggles broke. He was forced to drive one-handed. One hand on the wheel, the other on the goggles. He still finished an incredible 9th.

Bondurant reminds me, “There is always something you can do.”

Bondurant was able to achieve greatness in everything he tried his hand at. In 1967 he was asked to technical consultant for John Frankenheimer's new movie Grand Prix. Bob taught the film's lead actor, James Garner, to drive. The film went on to win 3 Academy Awards for its technical achievements.

1967 at Watkins Glen, Bondurant was racing a McLaren when the steering arm broke at 150 mph. He was launched above the tree tops.

“I was pronounced dead.”

He was also told he would never walk again.

“I was thinking, good Lord! What am I going to do for a living.”

Motivated by his work with the actors in Grand Prix, he decided to open up a school for racing.

Of course, the determined Bondurant proved the doctors wrong. Not only did he walk again… but shortly after that he was back behind the wheel of a race car.

Today at 81 years old he still does Hot Laps at his Chandler school and continues to add to a life resume that makes him the most interesting man in the world.