Bob Bondurant, a racing driver who became an instructor who taught and coached actors such as Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Christian Bale, and Nicolas Cage in racing and other fast-paced auto films, died on November 12 at an assisted living facility in Paradise Valley. Ariz. He was 88.

His death was announced by the Bondurant Racing School. His wife, Pat Bondurant, presented a death certificate to the New York Times, stating that Bondurant had had a “suspected immune reaction related to vaccination.” The certificate lists cerebrovascular diseases and cerebral artery stenosis as basic diseases. (The Times report did not provide any information on the type of vaccination; according to the CDC, deaths after a Covid-19 vaccination are rare.)

Bondurant, cruise, date unknown
Courtesy Bondurant Racing School

During his racing career in the 1950s and 60s, Bondurant became one of the most successful drivers in the world, winning the National Corvette Title, Le Mans GT, the World Championship and the Baja 500. Between 1961 and 1963, he won 30 of 32 races in Corvettes and is the first and only American to bring the World SportsCar Championship trophy to America in the legendary Shelby Daytona Coupé # 26. He rose to the highest level in racing with Ferrari in Formula 1 and in prototypes.

Ballen, Bondurant (2018)
Courtesy Bondurant Racing School

But in 1967 tragedy occurred during a race in Watkins Glen, New York, when the steering arm of Bondurant’s vehicle broke at 250 mph. The McLaren racing car he drove rolled over eight times, causing serious injuries to Bondurant’s rib, leg, foot and back. The doctors told him that he might never walk again.

The accident ended Bondurant’s racing career, so during his recovery, Bondurant decided to switch careers and, inspired by his experience, coach actor James Garner for the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Grand Prix, in 1968 the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving opened (initially on the Orange County International Raceway and moved to various locations over the years before settling in Chandler, Arizona.)

Over the next 50 years, the Bondurant Racing School saw a steady stream of actors eager to learn or hone their driving skills in preparation for film roles. Among the students he taught included Paul Newman and Robert Wagner for Winning from 1969, Tom Cruise for Days of Thunder from 1990, Nicolas Cage in 2000 for Gone in 60 Seconds, and Christian Bale for Ford vs. Ferrari 2019. (The school counts more than 500,000 graduates from around the world.)

A Bondurant School website features photos of Bondurant with these stars and celebrity racing drivers including Jay Leno, Clint Eastwood, David Crosby, Jimmy Kimmel, Tim Allen and Ludacris, among others.

Bondurant leaves behind his wife, Pat, the President and CEO of the Bondurant Racing School. Funeral services are planned for Saturday, December 4th, in Glendale, Arizona.