Longtime race car driver and actor Bob Bondurant dies

Actress Heather Locklear and actress Heather Locklear attend TCA for ‘The 8th Hour’ And Co-Star Heather Locklear Aged 24 in Beverly Hills, California on July 30, 2000. Getty Images Getty Images

Bob Bondurant, a race car driver and actor who coached actors as diverse as James Garner, Clint Eastwood and Heather Locklear through their careers, died at the age of 88.

On Twitter, his family wrote that he “passed away in his sleep after a short illness.” Bondurant had been at the Betty Ford Center where he received treatment for a stroke on September 2.

Since his heyday in the 1960s and ‘70s, the legendary racer won a remarkable 30 consecutive races, reported the Washington Post.

Bondurant was a protégé of Enzo Ferrari and a major figure in the racing world.

His best racing career came in the 1960s and 1970s when he became champion in Formula Ford and the sport’s most prestigious championship, the Formula One World Championship.

But it was behind the wheel of his beloved Marmon Maralte racer that Bondurant was most comfortable.

Other prominent celebrities who rode Bondurant’s car included Jayne Mansfield, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Carl Reiner, Ione Skye, Lee Marvin, Teri Garr, Clint Eastwood, O.J. Simpson, Pam Grier, and Sylvester Stallone.

“Just as he is a NASCAR Hall of Famer, Bob Bondurant is a legend and one of the greatest open-wheel racers the world has ever seen,” Brad Daugherty, the president of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series who was Bondurant’s closest friend told the Washington Post.

Bondurant once told National Geographic about a scene from the 1969 film “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” and how he mentored young actors while working on the set.

As the film was shooting on a rough, sandy road Bondurant told the crew “get someone behind the wheel.”

The result of that instruction was a dream come true for the young, hungry actor, Clint Eastwood.

“When we got to that dirt road and started inching toward the edge, I didn’t have the nerve to pass him,” Eastwood said. “He really convinced me to go with him.”

The two went on to have a long and successful working relationship. After Eastwood’s car accident in 2004 Bondurant had been working to preserve Eastwood’s racing heritage. In 2015 he was appointed as chairman of Eastwood racing collection, which included the racing gear owned by Eastwood himself and some of his classic racing cars.

“Bob Bondurant is legendary in the history of racing and certainly one of the greatest talents to ever grace the racetrack,” Daugherty said. “It was an honor to watch the respect in which he was held by the thousands of people who attended his many races and to see how eager Clint always was to help out.”

Bondurant was known for his lavish lifestyle, and was incredibly frugal in keeping it that way, according to the Washington Post. He told National Geographic in 2002 that after he retired in 1968, “every penny was hers,” because “My wife raised the money.”

He also famously supported the Save Our Species Initiative to help protect endangered species, and once said, “Dollar-wise and cents-foolishly, we can’t save all of the species out there, but you can definitely spend a lot less than anybody else. It’s just a matter of how far you go.”

According to National Geographic, Bondurant’s death “was sudden, yet calm, as if he had mentally prepared himself and waited for the last moment. He knew how precious time was.”

To commemorate Bondurant’s legacy, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile is planning on naming a race circuit for him.

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