Bondurant racing school vows to become stronger after Chapter 11 bankruptcy
School trained many famous race car drivers, movie stars
The Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, which traces its roots back to the world’s first school for race car drivers and those who wanted to be like them, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday in Chandler, Ariz.
Court filings listed total debts at between $1 million and $10 million, with between 50 and 99 creditors. The organization vowed to stay in business and reorganize its business.
“In a difficult yet important step toward becoming a stronger company, Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving Inc. filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona on Oct. 2, 2018,” read a statement from the school posted to its social media page.
“We will continue operating and serving our students and corporate groups as usual while we develop new business relationships to ensure the vitality of the Company in the future.”
Roots in Riverside
It has become quite an institution over the last 50 years. The school itself was started at Riverside International Raceway by Carroll Shelby in about 1961. Shelby hired Pete Brock to manage it and Bob Bondurant became one of the driving instructors.
Bondurant came to the school after one of the great driving careers in motorsports history, starting with sports cars in California.
Bondurant's wins in Corvettes date back as far as the 1950s. He won the 1959 West Coast SCCA B-production national championship, taking the title in 18 of 20 races. He continued on, winning 30 of the next 32 SCCA races from 1960 to 1963, and ended up driving for Shelby America in 1964, taking the Cobra Daytona Coupe class at Le Mans.
“When Dan and I won at Le Mans in the Daytona Coupe, it was the first time anyone had beaten the Ferrari GTOs,” Bondurant said four years ago at his induction to the SCCA Hall of Fame. “I had four of them chasing me for the final two hours and they couldn't catch me.”
Bondurant helped Shelby take the FIA GT Championship title with 10 wins in 1965, only to be picked up by Ferrari as a Formula 1 driver, later driving an Eagle F1 car for Gurney.
His competitive driving career took a sudden turn in 1967. While Bondurant was driving a McLaren Mark II at Watkins Glen, a steering arm failure caused a devastating crash, ending Bondurant's racing career. But his passion for racing wasn't stifled. He continued by teaching others what he had learned.
Paul Newman and Robert Wagner were among his first students, studying for their roles in the movie “Winning.”
The school officially became the Bondurant School in 1968 and had been going strong for many years.
Over the last 50 years, it has taught celebrities like Tom Cruise, Tim Allen, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood, among the A-listers.
Other celebs also found themselves behind the wheel of Bondurant cars: Candice Bergen, Gene Hackman, Katie Holmes, Paris Hilton, William Shatner, Ice Cube, John Oates, Sammy Hagar, Gabrielle Reece, Mia Hamm, Terrell Owens, Geraldo Rivera, Jimmy Kimmel, Paul Harvey, Peter Jennings and John Chancellor. Those are just the actors and celebrities.
The list of big-name professional racers who have studied under Bondurant is staggering: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Rick Mears, Kurt Busch, Buddy Rice, Johnny O'Connell, Darren Law, Jack Roush Jr. and Bill Elliott are just a handful of the pros who have sought council at Bondurant's school over the last 50 years.
There were also: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dick Trickle, Jimmie Johnson, assorted Waltrips and Wallaces and a couple of Gordons (Jeff and Robby), Tony Stewart, Kenny Bernstein, Ron Fellows, Scott Pruett, Ivan Stewart, Sammy Swindell, Gary Gabelich, Al Unser Jr., Chip Ganassi, Lyn St. James, Rick Mears and Scott Sharp.
Bondurant's students have ranged from teenagers to treasury agents, from motorsports enthusiasts to motorsports superstars. The school trains chauffeurs in executive-protection techniques and commuters in surviving daily traffic. There is customized instruction for corporate customers, and a 200-vehicle fleet includes go-karts to Corvettes.
Over the years the school has been at Orange County International Raceway, Ontario Motor Speedway, Sears Point and, since 1990, at its current location, a purpose-built facility adjacent to Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, just south of Phoenix.
Not the end
The bankruptcy will not mean the end of the Bondurant School, the company promises.
“The Chapter 11 ensures we will have sufficient time to reorganize and position the Company for sustained success. Our plan is to emerge from this process as a stronger company and continue to drive this Company into the next 50 years.”
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