Movies | November 26, 2021 4:26 pm

Bob Bondurant, Competitive Driver and Racing Instructor, Dead at 88

He was the go-to guy for actors playing drivers on screen

Bob Bondurant And Yves Montand
American racing driver Bob Bondurant, giving tips to film star Yves Montand at the wheel of a racing car, Snetterton, Norfolk, April 14th 1966.
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The world of auto racing is one where drivers put themselves at risk on countless occasions — and where reinvention is a constant. Bob Bondurant, who died earlier this month at the age of 88, embodied both of those qualities. As a driver, he competed in numerous Formula One races in the mid-1960s, as well as four consecutive editions of 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1964, he won the GT class while competing in the latter for the Shelby American team.

But it was after a 1967 accident while racing at Watkins Glen — one which left him with serious injuries to his back, leg, and ribs — that Bondurant made his most dramatic career change. He had worked as a consultant the year before for the film Grand Prix, teaching actor James Garner how to accurately portray a competitive driver. That led to the foundation of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in 1968.

Bondurant spent much of his life in demand as an instructor for actors playing professional drivers on screen. Among his students over the years were Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Christian Bale.

Over the years, Bondurant raced in Corvettes and Ferraris as well as his time with Shelby American. He also continued to race after his accident, including a brief stint in NASCAR. According to his obituary in the New York Times, his widow is working on bringing back a new version of his driving school, which changed ownership several years ago. And his impact on competitive racing — both as a driver and an instructor — remains vast.