(Editor’s observe: Throughout the month of March, the Journal will current a sequence of tales about driving faculties, together with some first-person accounts.)

“Look forward! “Look far forward!”

These had been the three most-important phrases thrown at me throughout my time on the Bob Bondurant Faculty of Excessive Efficiency Driving, the place I used to be extremely stunned to study simply how little I actually knew about driving.

This occurred about three a long time in the past simply after famed racer Bob Bondurant had moved his driving faculty in 1990 to the brand new facility in Chandler, Arizona, with a observe that he had designed to show the nuanced abilities of getting round it as quick as attainable. 

Again then, I used to be the newly minted auto editor on the Arizona Republic newspaper, and I believed I knew all of it, or at the least so much, about vehicles and vehicles and the way to drive them.  It didn’t take lengthy to blow that notion proper out of my head; I now know that I’m nonetheless studying, will at all times be studying and nonetheless have so much to study.

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Bondurant designed his faculty’s observe to incorporate technical driving components | Bondurant

“Look far forward” describes how a professional driver sees by means of the windshield, watching into the gap for risks and alternatives, planning for the way to method turns, and being ready as early as attainable for no matter comes up. Those self same phrases needs to be utilized for driving on the road as properly.  

The way to watch the highway forward was one of many main themes within the skilled driving coaching, together with automobile steadiness and management, the way to rapidly and safely get round corners, the way to steer and brake most effectively, and the way to keep away from crashes and obstacles by seeing escape routes (Watch the place you wish to go, not the place you don’t wish to go, I rapidly discovered).

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“The quickest drivers are the smoothest drivers on the observe,” I used to be additionally informed.

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Bondurant at Riverside again within the day

Thirty years later, the teachings I discovered at Bondurant are second nature, and abilities that I take advantage of day-after-day in my regular driving. 

I additionally discovered Bondurant’s personal story, how the acclaimed driver had been injured in a crash throughout follow that broken his decrease legs and ft so badly that he may not race professionally, and the way he had stayed in motorsports by establishing a performance-driving faculty on a shoestring in California.

His faculty was a powerful success, and shortly he and his small band of racing consultants had been coaching skilled drivers, college students and teenage drivers, police and celebrities the way to management vehicles at pace.  They helped precise race drivers in any respect talent ranges to hone their observe abilities, and taught film stars the way to painting race drivers in movies.

A few of these film stars, such because the legendary Paul Newman, set out on racing pursuits of their very own.  Only in the near past, the college educated actor Christian Bale in preparation for his function as racer Ken Miles within the Hollywood movie Ford v Ferrari

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Dodge Challenger Hellcats are the primary educating instruments lately

The varsity is now beneath new possession as Bondurant reluctantly retired because of his superior age.  It now has a revised title, the Bondurant Excessive Efficiency Driving Faculty, though the mission stays the identical.  

The vehicles have modified, too.  After I went by means of the college, it was sponsored by Ford, and Roush-prepped Mustang GTs had been the mainstay pupil vehicles, with open-wheel Method Ford race vehicles for superior coaching. Some years later, Normal Motors grew to become the sponsor, and the college featured Corvettes and Cadillacs. 

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These days, it’s Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcats making up the majority of the scholar vehicles (alas, they as soon as had RT-10 Vipers to drive, however Dodge stopped making them and so they’re all gone).  Ligier JS F4 open-wheel vehicles can be found for components racing instruction.

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A Dodge Charger arrange as a ‘skid automobile’ for low-traction instruction | Bondurant

I took the primary 4-day Excessive Efficiency Driving course, which incorporates classroom instruction and many time on the observe or going by means of the specialised coaching strategies, corresponding to piloting the wacky “skid automobile” on an enormous asphalt-covered lot – it’s geared up with hydraulic outrigger lifts that replicate dropping traction, as on black ice. 

The hydraulics are managed by the teacher, and the scholar driver should react to the “slippery” situations with out dropping management. There are a variety of spinouts.

A favourite reminiscence of my coaching was driving on the observe in a Mustang GT studying heel-and-toe shifting from the grasp himself, who would smack my leg once I tousled.  Being taught straight by Bondurant was a real thrill, in addition to humbling.

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Challengers lined up within the paddock for observe time

I used to be in with a gaggle of scholars on the primary day of instruction when Bondurant had us all pile into an enormous van ostensibly for a tour of the observe.  The van was an unwieldy, top-heavy factor, particularly with a bunch of individuals on board. 

But Bondurant, a smile on his face, raced across the observe at exceptional pace, sporting by means of the tight turns and usually exhibiting off his magical driving abilities, whereas all of us held on, wide-eyed, as he oh so easily demonstrated the way it needs to be executed, on the distant likelihood that any of us would ever get to be nearly as good as him.

I’ve been out to the Bondurant facility many occasions since my instruction, which additionally included taking the Superior Street Racing course within the Method Fords.  There are numerous occasions and driving alternatives there, and I really feel completely conversant in the place, which is an efficient feeling.

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A Hellcat on the cone-lined autocross course | Bondurant

One factor I additionally discovered was how cool {and professional} the instructors are, most of them skilled racers, some professional drivers and a few who went by means of Bondurant courses themselves as college students.  

Actually, you need to be fairly unflappable when educating a bunch of racer wannabees, a few of whom undoubtedly really feel too cool for college and got down to show out nice they’re on the observe, normally with humiliating outcomes. 

A number of years again, I used to be there with a gaggle of journalists going by means of a 1-day introductory course, and there was a man like that, who apparently thought he was the most well liked hotshoe on the place. 

Driving on a decent autocross course, which is marked off with visitors cones, he completely misplaced it, spinning and smoking the tires and usually making a large number of it.

The instructors watched his shenanigans with amusement.  On the finish, he was awarded the prize for killing probably the most cones. 

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Bob Golfen

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive author and editor, specializing in new automobiles, collector vehicles, automobile tradition and the automotive life-style. He’s the previous automotive author and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the web site for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a variety of publications, together with Autoweek, The New York Instances and Barrett-Jackson public sale catalogs. A collector automobile fanatic with a variety of data concerning the outdated vehicles that all of us love and want, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic equipment. His present obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Tremendous coupe.