Bob Bondurant, a racing driver who became a director who taught and mentored such actors as Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Christian Bale and Nicolas Cage for racing movies and other fast car movies, died on November 12 at a nursing home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. He was 88.
His death was announced by Bondurant Racing School. His wife Pat Bondurant took care of it New York Times with a death certificate indicating that Bondurant has suffered a “suspected immune response related to vaccinations.” The certificate indicates cerebrovascular disease and cerebral arterial stenosis as underlying conditions. Times the report did not specify the type of vaccination; according to the CDC, reports of deaths after Covid-19 vaccination are rare.)
During his racing career in the 1950s and 60s, Bondurant became one of the world’s most successful drivers, winning the National Corvette title, Le Mans GT, the world championship and the Baja 500. Between 1961 and 1963, he won 30 out of 32 race in the Corvettes, and is the first and only American to bring the World SportsCar Championship trophy home to America in the legendary Shelby Daytona Coupe # 26. He rose to the highest level in racing with Ferrari in Formula 1 and prototypes.
But the tragedy struck in 1967 during a race in Watkins Glen, New York, when the steering arm of Bondurant’s vehicle broke at 150 mph. The McLaren race car he was driving overturned eight times, causing serious injuries to Bondurant’s ribs, legs, feet and back. He was told by doctors that he might never go again.
The accident put an end to Bondurant’s racing career, so during his recovery, Bondurant decided to change careers and was inspired by his experience training actor James Garner for the 1966 John Frankenheimer film. The main prize, in 1968 he opened The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving (originally at the Orange County International Raceway and moved to various locations over the years before settling in Chandler, Arizona.)
Over the next 50 years, Bondurant Racing School experienced a steady stream of actors seeking to learn or fine-tune their driving skills in preparation for film roles. Among the students he taught were Paul Newman and Robert Wagner for 1969’s Winning, Tom Cruise for 1990’s Days of Thunder, Nicolas Cage in 2000 for Gone in 60 Seconds and Christian Bale for 2019’s Ford v Ferrari. (The school counts more than 500,000 graduates from around the world.)
A Bondurant School website contains photographs of Bondurant with these stars and such racing enthusiasts as Jay Leno, Clint Eastwood, David Crosby, Jimmy Kimmel, Tim Allen and Ludacris, among others.
Bondurant is survived by his wife Pat, the president and CEO of Bondurant Racing School. Funeral is scheduled for Saturday, December 4 in Glendale, Arizona.