Bob Bondurant, founder and CEO of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, returns to Riverside today and Saturday, where he will be honored at the "Legends of Riverside," the annual event hosted by the Riverside International Automotive Museum (RIAM).
The champion driver, businessman and educator, who competed frequently at the former California raceway, will be acknowledged for his professional career accomplishments and, in particular, his contributions to California motorsports.
Bondurant, who drove at Riverside from September 1957 to 1979, is the Museum's fifth honoree — joining a distinguished list of Dan Gurney, Carroll Shelby, Parnelli Jones and Bobby Unser.
Riverside International Raceway opened September 1957 and closed in July 1989. During its 32 years, Riverside hosted a variety of racing events, including NASCAR, IMSA, Formula 1, Trans Am, Indy Car World Series, drag, oval, motorcycle and local club races.
The opening weekend, the 24-year-old Bondurant raced a Triumph TR2, then, in his '57 Corvette, he won the B Production race in Dec. 1959, becoming the West Coast SCCA B Production champion and Valvoline Oil's Corvette Driver of the Year.
He followed this by driving Ferraris for Frank Arciero as well as the No. 614 Washburn Corvette. In 1962, Bondurant drove one of the first Corvette Sting Rays against Carroll Shelby's new Cobra at the LA Times Grand Prix, and the following year, in the same race, driving the Shelby 289 Cobra No. 99 (RIGHT), he was first overall for the Carroll Shelby team, which two years later won the 1965 World Manufacturers Champion by beating Ferrari.
In 1964, again in the LA Times Grand Prix at Riverside, Bondurant defeated Cobra favorite Dan Gurney in the GT preliminary race and, in the main event, passed more than 20 cars and finished eighth among the big-bore sports cars and prototypes.
In 1964, he drove the mid-engined Shelby King Cobra, finishing fifth. The next year, he was leading the main 200-mile race in a Lola T70 until a brake caliper forced his departure. Throughout the late ‘60s and ‘70s, he competed in McLaren and Lola Can-Am cars and, in his last race at Riverside in 1979, a Porsche 935.
“A 'legend' exemplifies the very apex of what is important to us as human beings, like happiness, success and friendship. A Legend is a person to whose persona or accomplishments you aspire or an item that reflects quality, significance, and value. Bob Bondurant is certainly that,” says Chris Miller, RIAM historian and newsletter editor. “Careful consideration was given to a number of motorsports ‘Legends' before Bob Bondurant was selected,” he adds. “Raised in the California Car Culture and growing out of it onto the international stage, Bob certainly epitomizes the very definition of a ‘motorsports legend.'”
“I've been excited about this event since I was told,” says Bondurant, this year celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Bondurant School and his 80th birthday. “I look forward to returning to Riverside, where I enjoyed so much success and joy during my racing career.”
The only purpose-built facility of its kind in the world, the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Chandler, Arizona, has trained nearly 500,000 people — professional racers, executives, chauffeurs, performance enthusiasts and day-to-day drivers such as teens and moms — to become safer and more proficient at handling the challenges of track, street and highway driving.