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Bob Bondurant, race car champion who taught the stars how to drive fast, dies

Bob Bondurant stands next to a race car.
Bob Bondurant in Ontario, Calif., in 1971.
(Alvis Upitis / Getty Images)

Bob Bondurant, a former champion race car driver who opened a high-performance driving school in Orange County in 1968 and taught numerous A-list actors how to drive fast for their movie roles, has died at his home in Phoenix.

Bondurant died Friday in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley at 88, according to his family and the Bondurant Racing School website. No cause of death was released.

Bondurant taught stunt driving, competition driving, police pursuit driving, evasive driving for chauffeurs and bodyguards, plus other skills, according to the website. His school has had more than 500,000 graduates, it said.

Among the celebrities Bondurant instructed in road course driving for their movie roles were Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Nicolas Cage, Robert Wagner, Tim Allen and Christian Bale.

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Born in Evanston, Ill., Bondurant and his family moved to California when he was 2.

He raced motorcycles on dirt tracks as a teenager before switching to cars in 1958 and racing for the Shelby American, Ferrari and Eagle teams.

Bondurant won 30 of 32 races in Corvettes from 1961 to 1963 and won the GT class at Le Mans in 1964, co-driving with fellow American Dan Gurney.

Badly injured in a 1967 crash at the racetrack in Watkins Glen, N.Y., Bondurant drafted an idea for a high-performance driving school while recuperating.

He opened the school in early 1968 at the Orange County International Raceway in what’s now Irvine, then moved it to Ontario and, later, Sonoma.

Bondurant relocated the driving school to Phoenix after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California.

He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2003.

Bondurant is survived by his wife, Pat, who is president and chief executive of the Bondurant Racing School. She vowed to continue the legacy of the school.

“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,” Phoenix Raceway President Julie Giese said in a statement.


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