Bondurants looking forward to new version of renowned high-performance driving school
It took 10 days for Pat Bondurant’s daughter to dial her driving coach’s number, put the phone to her mother’s ear and set up the pair.
Three months later in 2010, Pat tied the knot with Bob Bondurant, the legendary racecar driver and member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Their love story is for another day, but the Bondurants’ love of racing, and specifically their racing school, is in full throttle after several years of serious doubt that there would be a future.
Owners of the original legendary Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, which opened in Southern California in 1968 and moved to Chandler in 1990, the Bondurants filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2018. Ever since, Pat, who was the company president and CEO, has done all she can in the fight to keep the Bondurant name alive.
A group of investors, graduates of the school who formed a company called Stig Investments, bought the school out of bankruptcy for $1.67 million in 2019. But still at issue, in Pat’s mind, was the Bondurant name, which she believed was not part of the sale. It all led to several suits, charges and countercharges, at least one involving one of her sons, who she felt “attempt(ed) a hostile takeover orchestrating a walkout.”
“You cannot take loyalty for granted … salt and sugar look the same,” Bondurant said.
So far in 2021, there have been positive developments, and a host of still-unanswered questions.
In March, the owners of the school announced they were was changing its name to Radford Racing School. That freed up Pat and Bob to use the Bondurant name for a planned new driving school.
The name is key because of all it stands for. Bob Bondurant excelled at the highest levels of sports car racing in the 1960s, with perhaps his greatest achievement coming in 1964 when he won the GT class at Le Mans 24 Hours driving with Dan Gurney for Carroll Shelby. Later, when he opened his racing school, he was the driving instructor for actors ranging from Paul Newman to Tom Cruise. Most recently, at age 86 at the time, he trained Christian Bale for his role in the movie “Ford v Ferrari.”
Pat, who has a background in design and once founded an architectural and development firm, has been steering the new school’s direction in picking a qualified partner who is not, as she put it, “scratching for money.” She is currently talking with three highly funded potential partners, which is paramount for the Bondurant Racing School.
“Unlike our competitors, safety is so important to us and it costs a lot more,” Pat Bondurant said. “Other schools ask how does Bondurant do what they do because it costs so much.”
The location of the new school is perhaps the biggest question. California and Texas are solidly in the mix, and Arizona is not out of the equation. Pat called the weather “the dream team” and complimented how well the community has treated the Bondurants.
“This community has blessed us and we have blessed them. We have raised millions of dollars for charities for our community. We are deeply engrained in Phoenix and Arizona,” Pat Bondurant said. “You know Bob Bondurant Day is April 27 … who gets that?! We love Arizona, this is our home, and we have to make some big decisions pretty quick.”
Some of the improvements Bob and Pat are hoping for include an elevated track, boutique hotel, and a 10-acre asphalt pad for exercises. But as with the location, other details and next steps are still TBD.
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