An Interview With The Man Himself
He's a former F1 driver for Ferrari. He's won at Le Mans. He secured the '65 FIA World Manufacturers' Championship for Shelby. Bob Bondurant's professional racing career may have ended after an on-track accident in 1967, but he is still known as the Master of Maximum Car Control. I was privileged enough to talk with him, and here are some of the most pertinent things he had to say.
Probably the most significant question I had pertained to the relationship between what is taught at the school and situations students might encounter in real life. "In 40 years we've trained over 250,000 people," Bondurant responded. "What we really teach is maximum car control, whether you are going racing or driving on the street. Safety is a big emphasis. I look at that as, we've made people more aware; they're safer drivers, they save lives, they prevent accidents."
So what, then, are his top tips for safe street driving? "Learning to elevate the vision much further" is first and foremost on his list. "When I'm driving, I'm always looking 8-10 car lengths ahead and watching where traffic is around me. If I see someone ahead on the phone driving erratically, I make a lane change and go on by. When I see a brake light come on down the road, I can start slowing down or make a lane change. [In an emergency situation] if you learn our lift, turn, and squeeze technique, you can make a lane change in a much safer way than just jamming on the brakes. In most cases, you can avoid the situation much faster than you could just stop."
Even though he has decades of performance-driving experience under his belt, Bondurant still practices an emergency lane-change maneuver on an almost daily basis. "[Learning in] the skid car helps you control a car, too." He was adamant that even people who are used to driving in inclement weather won't fully appreciate how to recover from a skid situation until experiencing it-and practicing it over and over-in the Bondurant skid car. As a Northeast native myself, I wholeheartedly agree.
Bondurant also had some choice words for inexperienced drivers. "When I was a teenager, I thought I knew what I was doing driving. I didn't know s**t. I think teens today are the same way, except you've got faster cars and a lot more distractions-the cell phone, a car full of kids daring you to do this or that, and so on." He highly recommends that parents put their children through a driving course expressly designed for teenagers. This, he says, will endow them with a better understanding of how to deal with the dangers of the road-and in many cases, of themselves.
No matter what course you choose, says Bondurant, "it all comes back to maximum car control. Once you do the Accident Avoidance Simulator and the Skid Car, you understand what you must do if you get into a situation. We get phone calls and emails all the time saying, 'Gosh, you saved my life. I never would have known what to do!'"