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Bob Bondurant John Dowd image

Bondurant celebrates his 80th birthday

Bob Bondurant celebrates his 80th birthday today (April 27), and he’ll be sitting it out — in a race car.

The World Champion driver, founder and CEO of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, proudly located on the Gila River Indian Community just outside Phoenix, will enjoy the milestone with wife Pat, family and Bondurant School employees and friends.

“Pat and I and everyone at the school thank our loyal sponsors, Gila River friends, thousands of former students and many others for their letters, notes, cards and e-mails,” says Bob, who will be taking birthday laps in one of his presents: a supercharged Cobra given to him by Pat.

“This is an enormous year we have all been anticipating,” says Pat, president of the school, which is this year celebrating its 45th anniversary with events on site and nationwide. “To our long-time friends throughout the world, a high-horsepower ‘Thank You!’”

After competing with dirt bikes in Southern California in his teens, Bob raced Corvettes in the mid-‘50s, winning the west coast SCCA B Production National Championship in 1959 with a stunning 18 of 20 wins. He followed this with USSRC success for the great Carroll Shelby. For his Shelby American team, Bob participated in the 1965 World Manufacturers Championship, winning seven of his 10 races in Cobras and Daytonas — still the only American team to achieve this title.

After surviving a horrendous racing accident in June 1967 at Watkins Glen, New York, he rebuilt his life by opening the Bondurant School a half year later at Orange County International Raceway in Santa Ana, Calif., and moved to the Arizona location in 1990. “Our vision was, then and now: Offer a wide variety of drivers the best track-intensive training in the world,” Bob says.

The only purpose-built facility of its kind in the world, the Bondurant School has trained nearly 500,000 people — professional racers, executives, law-enforcement officers and military specialists, performance enthusiasts and day-to-day drivers — to become safer and more proficient at handling the challenges of track, street and highway driving.