Bondurant Racing School shuts its doors, possibly for good

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Aerial view of the Bondurant Racing School facility at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona. Image courtesy Google Maps.

After celebrating its 50th anniversary in February 2018, the Bondurant Racing School (originally, the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on October 2. Now, as multiple news outlets are reporting, the school abruptly shut its doors on Monday, November 12 — in the midst of a Dodge SRT class — saying only that more details would be released later in the week.

Over its five-decade history, the school has been located at Orange County International Raceway, Ontario Motor Speedway, and Sears Point — all in California — before locating to its current home outside of Phoenix, Arizona, in 1990. Initially focused on training students to race sports cars and open-wheel formula cars, in recent years the school has branched out to cover specialties like executive protection and teen driver safety, while continuing to offer racing schools targeted to various levels of proficiency.

Bob Bondurant got the idea to establish a high-performance driving school while recovering from serious injuries sustained in a high-speed testing crash at Watkins Glen in June 1967. Formalizing the principles used to train actor James Garner for his role in the film Grand Prix, Bondurant penned an outline for the school’s curriculum. To see if he was on the right track, he briefly worked as an instructor for Carroll Shelby’s school before opening the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving on February 14, 1968. Among his first clients were two more actors — Paul Newman and Robert Wagner — preparing for their roles in the feature film Winning.

In its earliest days, the school partnered with Datsun, but over the years has seen agreements inked with Porsche, Ford, GM, and Dodge. Until Monday’s closure, the Bondurant Racing School was the official driver training partner of Dodge and SRT, offering classes in the Hellcat, Demon, and, most recently, Fiat 124 Abarth.

In its October Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the school listed assets of between $1 million and $10 million, while owing its creditors the same dollar amount. In a statement issued at the time of filing, the company said,

In a difficult yet important step towards becoming a stronger company, Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, Inc., filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona on October 2, 2018. We will continue operating and serving our students and corporate groups as usual while we develop new business relationships to ensure the vitality of the Company in the future. For over 50 years, Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has been a fixture in Arizona and renowned nationally and internationally in the world of racing, thanks to our loyal students, dedicated employees, and the Gila River Indian Community. The Chapter 11 ensures we will have sufficient time to reorganize and position the Company for sustained success. Our plan is to emerge from this process as a stronger company and continue to drive this Company into the next 50 years.

As of Monday, however, this no longer appears to be the case. In a post entitled “Bondurant School is Closed,” a member of the Hellcat.org forum, at the school for a four-day class, described his experience as instructors and technicians packed their belongings and locked the doors. As one explained, “the Chapter 11 bankruptcy looks like a (Chapter) 7 now. We are closed.”

We’ve reached out to the school for clarification, and will update this article as more information becomes available.

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