After five decades of training racers of all skill levels, the Bondurant High Performance Driving School in Chandler, Arizona has new name, the Radford Racing School.
“We’ve rapidly progressed in enhancing and reintroducing this facility as the world’s premier experience for the next generation of drivers,” said Mike Kessler, general manager at the school.
After the fabled school was purchased in $1.7 million May 2019 out of bankruptcy from the legendary Bob Bondurant and his family by Stig Investments. The new owners — a small group of auto enthusiasts, collectors, and graduates of the school — completed an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation of the tracks and support facilities.
New look, new updates and a new name
Part of that update is the new partnership — and renaming — with Radford its much higher profile ownership group, English and U.S. television personality Ant Anstead, Formula One champion Jenson Button, car designer Mark Stubbs and business partner Roger Behle.
The new name also is part of an effort by the four to breathe life into Radford, an until-recently defunct English coachbuilding firm. The four are reviving the Radford story into a modern lifestyle brand that celebrates auto design and performance, high-performing driving and racing.
The group has developed a following among automotive enthusiasts, and the track owners hope the makeover and new partnership will become an experience destination for international auto enthusiasts, everyday drivers, new drivers, racers, celebrities and influencers.
Radford keeps official ties to Dodge SRT
The Radford Racing School will continue the partnership with Dodge and its SRT line-up of vehicles. There are six tracks, including a drag racing courses. Participants can roar down the straightaway behind the wheel of an 840-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon.
The other courses use the Challenger SRT Hellcat, Charger SRT Hellcat and Durango SRT as well as other options available for the on-track performance driving experience.
New Dodge SRT owners are among the thousands of students who come to the school annually to learn how to achieve optimum performance of high-performance vehicles in a controlled environment, the new owners said.
In addition to the Dodge//SRT vehicles, the school features Ligier JS F4 open wheel vehicles, vintage Dodge Vipers, go karts, and cars used in its special forces, police, and military training. The Radford team will now build and test vehicles on the Radford Racing School track.
Big money makeover
Kessler said the renovation and expansion included the first resurfacing of the main track in 30 years, enhancements to the event center, visitor center, gift shop, student lounge, classrooms, skills pad, and eagle’s nest viewing platform.
The course offering also was diversified by adding open wheel and drag racing courses and new formula racing courses are under development, he said. It is also breaking new ground as the first school of its kind to offer professional drag racing instruction to the public and the chance to earn an NHRA Drag License
Incorporating racing into the moniker represents the brand’s extension into the racing world, positioning the facility as a place for speed, professional race car instruction and experiences, in addition to world-class driving instruction.
“The racetrack is the perfect environment for building and testing Radford-built cars,” said Anstead, who recently wrapped up a stint as the overworked mechanic on the U.S. version of the television show, “Wheeler Dealers”
Paying homage to Bondurant
The update and name change marks the final move away from 50 years of racing education history. Bondurant began the training operation in 1968 in California. A skilled driver, Bondurant competed on a variety of racing series, posting several big winds, including the 1965 FIA Sports Car World Championship.
He drove for Carol Shelby and even has a short stint as a Formula One driver for Ferrari; however, a brutal crash in a Can-Am McLaren ended his racing days and kick started his career teaching folks how to push the limits behind the wheel.
Bondurant started out at what was then known as Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, California. Then moved to another California track before settling in Arizona. He claims to have taught more than 300,000 people how to race, including a couple of high-profile and successful students: Paul Newman and James Garner.
Initially, Bondurant students buzzed around the track in Ford vehicles, then he shifted to Chevy Corvettes before the move over to the Dodge Challengers, Chargers and even Durangos they push to th limit now.
In recent years, racing schools struggled to keep afloat with ever-increasing safety mandates and the costs to maintain and update vehicles seemingly always rising. Bondurant declared bankruptcy in 2018, following Skip Barber Racing, which filed in 2017. The plan was to come out “a stronger company,” he believed, but that comeback never came, and the business was sold the next year.