Bondurant as seen from the...
Bondurant as seen from the air. Its 15-turn, 1.6-mile road course is where the majority of the training happens. Note its "Carousel" section at bottom right, the "Lake Loop" in the middle, and the "Maricopa Oval" at top left-there are several different configurations in which the track can be run. You can also see the asphalt "skills" pad where we'll be doing the Skidpad, the Accident Avoidance Simulator, and other exercises. Just out of view: Firebird International Raceway, portions of which are used for advanced courses and corporate events.
Perhaps more than any other vehicle in history, the Corvette attracts individuals with highly diverse interests. For example, many readers of this magazine enjoy Corvette history, while some take part in amateur or professional racing. And then there's the show-and-shine crowd. Varied though their Vette-related hobbies may be, we'll bet any of them can get excited about strapping themselves behind the wheel of a C6 for some serious on-track training and excitement.
The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has four decades of experience teaching racers and average citizens alike how to be safe and successful behind the wheel. While other marques have been used in the past, GM has been the brand of choice here for years-in fact, since 2007 Bondurant has been the official driving school of General Motors. In addition to the likes of Cadillac CTSs and Pontiac Solstices, the school has a plethora of what we really care about: C6s and C6 Z06s, all primed and ready for students to put through their paces. According to Bob Bondurant, who still runs the school, "Everyone wants to drive a Corvette. We've seen a big increase in attendance since we switched." And why not? As a world-class performance machine, it's the perfect vehicle in which to learn at the limit. At Bondurant, the name of the game is maximum car control, and this applies whether you're going flat-out through Turn 12 at Road Atlanta or are in the midst of your morning commute and suddenly encounter a roadway hazard.
Racing aspirations or no, literally anyone with a driver's license can benefit from Bondurant, and with a broad selection of course offerings, there are many ways to accomplish this. From veteran racers looking to sharpen their abilities further, to newly licensed teens in desperate need of basic safety training, there's quite literally a course for everyone. From its description, I figured the Grand Prix Road Racing course to be right up my alley: It doesn't require extensive racing experience, and completion of the course confers SCCA regional license eligibility. The only question was whether to stay for three days or four. Easy answer: After three days of Corvettes, why not stay one more and drive some lightweight, open-wheel Formula cars?
Actually going through a course at Bondurant is the only way to truly appreciate what is taught at the school, not to mention the courtesy and individual attention given by every member of the staff. Hopefully we can give you the tiniest taste of it all, so check out the photo captions for more information.
VETTE would like to sincerely thank Anna Hackett, Corey Hosford, Les Betchner, Jerry Arms, Bob Bondurant, Rusty Bondurant (CEO), and everyone at the Bondurant School for their fantastic hospitality, instruction, and assistance with this story.
Monday morning, Day 1: One of the first things on the to-do list is a tour of the Bondurant garage facilities, where the Corvettes and other machines are maintained. The yellow C6s are used for our course, white ones for more-advanced courses (they have fewer of the factory electronic safeties locked in). The red car you'll of course recognize as a Z06, used for the "Z06 Experience" courses.
No intro to the Bondurant grounds would be complete without a first-hand go-round of the Bondurant Road Course, and all students get one while seated in the climate-controlled comfort of Chevy Express vans. Good thing they've got the A/C on high, because when the instructors start rat-racing these bad boys, you might start to sweat! Instantaneously, it's clear that these guys really know their stuff-it takes serious skill to safely pilot a 2 1/2-ton passenger van at full bore.
After a classroom introduction to vehicle dynamics (including primers on weight transfer and trail braking), we walk outside to select our rides. Our '08 Corvettes were so new, they didn't even have the school paint scheme on them yet. Basically race-ready from the factory, these Z51 C6s require few alterations to prep them for Bondurant duty. Even the tire set consists of straight-off-the-showroom-floor Eagle F1 Supercar run-flats that, according to Bondurant's Jerry Arms, "Depending on the students, we normally get two four-day classes out of." Aside from providing excellent grip, they also work well with the factory tire-pressure-monitoring system.