Bob Bondurant is the country’s most famous driving instructor. His school in the Arizona desert has taught professional racing techniques to clients ranging from Navy SEALS to Royal chauffeurs. As a technical consultant, he has also taught Paul Newman and Tom Cruise the finer points of heel-toe downshifting. Before that, though, he was enshrined in racing history after helping win the legendary “Cobra-Ferrari wars.” As the lead driver of Carroll Shelby’s Ford-powered Cobras, Bondurant won seven out of ten races against team Ferrari in 1965. After a nasty accident abruptly ended his career, Bondurant opened his namesake driving school in 1968. At age 79, he continues to teach and still feels the need for speed.
WORK 9 TO 3
Driving instructors will still say it after you buckle up: “Place the hands at 10 and 2 o’clock.” Wrong. Look at any sports-car steering wheel. The spokes are positioned at 9 and 3 for a reason. That’s where you grip it. Simple ergonomics. Your shoulders won’t hunch, which means less fatigue, especially on long drives. More important, you’ll have a greater range of motion in an evasive maneuver without having to take your hands off the wheel (270 degrees of turning vs. 90). Bonus points: if the airbags deploy, propelling your arms into your head at 200 mph, broken bones and teeth are less likely.
WEAR A RUBBER
The easiest way to improve your driving is to buy new tires. Original factory tires are designed for all types of weather conditions and road surfaces. The tradeoff for such versatility is poor performance. Upgrade immediately. Don’t spend a fortune. Select a mid-priced model that suits your needs. Live in Seattle? Get deep grooves to channel the water when it rains. In the desert, a racing tread pattern (fewer grooves, widely spaced) is ideal. The improvement in traction, cornering, and steering response will be a revelation.
THE TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE
Finding the line to carve the perfect turn requires years of racing experience. Determine the turn-in point, then nail the brake-point, clip the apex, exit-point…. Skip the advanced physics and buy an all-wheel-drive car instead. AWD is safer and more forgiving than both rear- and front-wheel drive. It grips gravel roads and corners like a bullet train. Snow and rain? No contest. Like the Audi A4 Quattro, which won so often on the Super Touring circuit in the late ’90s that race officials banned AWD cars from all further races.
Whether racing at Indy or commuting on the NJ Turnpike, the common enemy is heat. If the road surface heats up, reduce speed (hot rubber decreases traction). If the engine heats up, reduce speed (to prevent mechanical problems). If your body temperature heats up, reduce speed (to compensate for diminished skills). One Bondurant school instructor even has a mnemonic nursery rhyme for this: Cool is fast/hot is slow/so when things heat up/everything slows.