10/18/2013 - Fans, Cars, Racers Gather For Bondurant's 80th Birthday
Bob Bondurant raced cars like these in his heyday, gathered for his 80th birthday/races at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park last weekend in Chandler, AZ. They included Dave McDonald's King Cobra, Ford GT40, Don Roberts' Shelby Cobra, '64 Cheetah (photo: 2013 Mike Silverman/Vintage Motorsport)
Chandler, AZ - There hasn't been a vintage race of note in the Phoenix metro area since Phoenix International Raceway closed its "roval" road course in March, 2011, but about 75 cars blew off the accumulated dust and pounded the pavement as part of last weekend's celebration to mark Bob Bondurant's 80th birthday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (formerly Firebird International Raceway) here. His actual birthday was April 27, but who's counting - these type of events take months of planning and organization.
The facility, which includes a dragstrip, three small road circuits, a drag boat lake and the student track for the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving (here since 1990) was the gathering point for vintage and late-model racers, racing icons, car clubs and motorsport fans for the Friday to Sunday festival to fete the octogenarian racing legend, who took Carroll Shelby's Cobra Daytona coupe to the 1965 FIA World Manufacturer's Championship, among many other accomplishments.
Among those partaking in the festivities, along with a Saturday night sold-out $100 per plate birthday dinner honoring Bondurant were Daytona Coupe designer and BRE team owner Peter Brock, his 2.5L Trans-Am championship driver John Morton, period Cobra drivers Allen Grant and Don Roberts, along with Shelby-American's Dianna Day and J.L. Henderson, plus Shelby driver Dave McDonald's widow Sherry. All of the above, plus "Cobra-Ferrari Wars" author Michael Shoen, took part in a Sunday morning panel discussion moderated by Shelby American Auto Club L.A. chapter president Randy Richardson at the on-site Bondurant Museum.
Four different run groups got plenty of track time on the 2.4-mile, 20-turn "Mondo Circuit," which combined the main Bondurant student course with the drag strip and its integrated road course. Two vintage groups were featured, the "Historic" small-bores like Triumph, Morgan and Lotus, with a larger group of B/P and A/S American V8s (Mustang, Camaro, Corvette) that were the feature race midday Sunday. A large number of reproduction Cobras/Daytona Coupes and late-model muscle cars comprised the other two run groups.
While the combo track offered a lengthy straight, a plethora of tight turns and limited passing on the narrow Bondurant circuit made it quirky, and the varied grip of multiple surfaces at the final walled-in corner onto the drag strip claimed one Boss 302's bodywork. Indications are the races will return, same time next year, but possibly on a revamped and lengthened East track, which has often been used for Indy car and other pro testing. Phoenix-area racers can't wait.