Bob Bondurant Nominated to National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame
Bondurant’s NCM Recognition is Long Overdue
Bob Bondurant has been nominated to the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame for his accomplishments behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Corvette. During the Corvette’s early years, Bondurant helped to validate the vehicle as a world-class sports car, racking up wins on racetracks here and abroad that have earned him consideration for the esteemed NCM Hall of Fame.
Though Bob has been nominated several times before, he has also been overlooked, despite the fact that his record behind the wheel of a Corvette has been unmatched. If selected by the National Corvette Museum board of directors, Bondurant would be placed in the respected hall alongside many of his contemporaries that have already been inducted: Dr. Dick Thompson, Dave MacDonald, Dick Gulstrand, Don Yenko, and John Fitch.
His accomplishments in the Corvette are unmatched in Corvette history and have earned him accolades in the past from friends and legendary competitors such as Guldstrand, MacDonald, and Roger Penske.
Bondurant’s accomplishments have also resulted in a groundswell of support for his induction by a huge number of Corvette enthusiasts and National Corvette Museum members. Although he rose to world recognition by winning the 1965 FIA GT Championship in a Shelby Daytona, during his career, Bondurant actually participated in more than twice as many races behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Corvette. His Corvette accomplishments are long overdue for recognition.
For a decade prior to opening his school in 1968, Bob was racing – and winning with – practically anything on wheels. From racing an Indian motorcycle around the dirt ovals around his Los Angeles stomping grounds at 18, he soon moved on to sports cars. By 1959, he had captured the West Coast “B” Production Championship and the Corvette Driver of the Year award. From 1960 until 1963, Bondurant drove the Shelly Washburn 1959 Corvette and the 1963 Z06 Sting Ray, both #614, and won 30 of the 32 races he entered – a record unmatched in Corvette racing history. Overall, Bondurant drove a Corvette in more than 55 races and rarely did not finish on the podium. Bondurant‘s numerous impressive wins behind the wheel of his Corvettes were unmatched and the impetus for his quick rise to becoming a world-famous driver.
There is no question that Bondurant’s Corvette accomplishments on the track are often overshadowed by his later success with Carroll Shelby’s team, the one with which he won the GT class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1964 and 1965. Even more importantly, in 1965, Bondurant won seven out of 10 FIA World Championship races in America and Europe, driving Shelby Cobra 289 Roadsters and Daytona Coupes and winning the 1965 FIA GT Championship title for Ford and the Shelby team. This was the first and (to date) the only time an American had won the championship in an American car. However, Bondurant’s outstanding performance and skill behind the wheel of a Shelby racecar should in no way diminish his equally important contribution to the Corvette at a time critical in the establishment of the vehicle’s reputation on race tracks in the United States and around the world.
Following his stint with Shelby in the mid 1960s, in 1967, Bondurant once again returned to Le Mans – behind the wheel of an L88 Corvette. He and co-driver Dick Guldstrand were on their way to winning the GT class in it until an engine failure parked them. After that, Bondurant moved to the fast-growing – and dangerous – Can-Am racing series, but tragedy struck when a steering arm in his McLaren broke at 150 mph and he flipped eight times, injuring his ribs, legs, feet, and back. Doctors told him he would likely never walk again, but he overcame his injuries. His professional racing days were over, though.
What would have sidelined most drivers only served to redirect Bondurant and his future involvement in racing. While recovering in his hospital bed, he got the inspiration to open a school for race drivers. On February 14, 1968, less than a year after his accident, he opened the Bondurant Driving School at the now-defunct Orange County International Raceway near Los Angeles.
Bondurant continued to dream of bigger and better ways to do his job and his vision of building a purpose-built driver training facility became a reality in Phoenix, Arizona in March of 1990, when Firebird Raceway opened for business. The school maintains over 200 race-prepared vehicles, sedans, SUVs, and open-wheel cars, but clearly focuses on the Chevrolet Corvette. Today, the school is the largest dedicated facility of its kind in North America.
Bob Bondurant has competed and won at the highest levels of motorsport and a big part of his success came behind the wheel of America’s sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette. It is past time to recognize Bondurant’s outstanding contribution to the Corvette and induct him into the National Corvette Hall of Fame. Few racecar drivers or enthusiasts have done more to add to the fame and glory of the Chevrolet Corvette.
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via [National Corvette Museum, NCM Corvette Racing History: The Making of a Performance Icon, Sports Car Digest, Hot Rod, Corvette Racing Legends, Dr. Peter Gimenez]
Special Thanks to the Bondurant Archives