Gridlife; The 2017 PowerStop Bondurant Cup
The 2017 Gridlife season wrapped up last fall at Gingerman Raceway and we crowned our 4 Track Battle season champions. The winners not only took home the gold but they also nabbed our season champion prize of a week out at the Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, AZ.
With the 2018 Gridlife season opener quickly approaching we took the winners James Houghton (Unlimited Champ), Tony Fuentes (Track Mod Champ), Graham Gaylord (Street Mod Champ), and Charles Miller (Street Class Champ), along with Gridlife’s Shawn Fenton out to Bondurant to have some fun in the school’s fleet of Hellcats. The “Forza Motorsports Grand Prix Road Racing” course takes students through a 4-day program that ranges from classroom instruction, to open lapping in a 707 hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, and finishes with a day on track in a Formula Mazda race car.
The Bondurant Racing School
When you travel to Chandler, AZ to take part in the Bondurant program, you are stepping into history. Bob Bondurant pioneered the idea of a “driving school” well ahead of the curve, making this the oldest school and faculty of it’s kind. From open-wheel racing to LeMans and CanAm, Bob Bondurant is one of the most celebrated American racers in history. His decades of experience in racing gave him the vast knowledge to design and build a course that took the challenges of some of the best tracks in the world and put them all in one place.
The Bondurant facility features a 1.6-mile main course that has 15 turns with multiple configurations and an 8-acre skid pad that offers infinite possibilities. With all of that asphalt, they leave no stone unturned and aim to train you for literally any situation you may come upon on track. When you mix a sports car course designed to train away your bad habits with the SRT Hellcat platform, there is only one outcome… Success.
Back to the Basics
Even though our guys are all well-seasoned champions (#goldenboys), the Bondurant program doesn’t discriminate… Every Bondurant student starts with the basics. That means learning (or re-learning) heal-toe technique, weight transfer, smooth power application, race-line theory, skid control, and collision avoidance. We were surprised to find out that nearly none of the Gridlife champions had ever had any formal driver instruction, and all of them were able to take something away from this portion of the school.
Once they had a chance to get on-course in the SRT Hellcats, all of our drivers generally agreed that this car was the perfect teaching tool. With 707hp, gobs of torque, and a curb weight just north of 4400lbs; the Hellcats are unforgiving and if you can’t master the basics these cars will bite back hard! This cocktail of horsepower and weight is the exact opposite of the race cars that dominate the Gridlife field and had our guys rethinking the way they drive on-track.
Of course, it’s also helpful to know that these Hellcats are upgraded where it counts for the track… Each car is equipped with Goodyear Tires, a Borla Exhaust, full Shell/Pennzoil Fluids, and of course PowerStop Track Day brake pads. On top of all that prep, each car is inspected and maintained daily to keep the students on-course and not wondering “what if”.
You can take the racers out of competition, but you can’t take the competition out of the racers. There is a natural inclination for racers to want to be the fastest one on track, and of course, that was true of our #Goldenboys.
The Gridlife family if full of on-track rivalries that provide excitement at each event (and for weeks and months after on the interwebs), what sets us apart is the vibe OFF the track. There was some smack talking, there was some poking and prodding, and there was definitely that push to be the fastest… We knew going into this that there would be some friendly competition and heck, we might have fostered it a little bit! But in the end, it was all in good fun.
Except of course for Shawn, he was like a sponge just looking to soak up any and all knowledge he could find and then translated that sweaty sponge of knowledge into plenty of hard work on track (and more sweat). That’s not to say that he didn’t “help” some of the rivalries along with a sharp and subtle comment here and there.
Day 4 “Like big Go karts”
From Classroom to skid car, to Hellcat, to Formula Mazda. That is the natural progression that The Bondurant program takes you through, and that 4th day is like magic. For those that had never driven a Formula Car, this was their introduction to one of the most visceral experiences in motorsports. Moving from the heavier, high-horsepower streetcars into these lightweight racing machines forces you to once again consider what you have been learning and translate that knowledge to the lighter more nimble rotary racers. It’s also a very athletic experience as you will see from the heavily whetted brows of our drivers in the video below.
At the end of day 4 is graduation, each student that competently completes the course is eligible for an instructor endorsement that will get you an SCCA regional license. We’re happy to say that all of our drivers passed with flying colors, and while you might not consider that remarkable with a group of racers… Remember that Shawn came to Arizona having zero on-track experience and very little stick shift experience. He left Arizona with the same SCCA regional license endorsement as our more seasoned racers, and I’d say he was easily the MVP of the trip.
More importantly, he is a testament to how well the Bondurant teaching method works. Check out the video here to come along for a ride with the 2017 Gridlife champions!
Special thanks to Gears and Gasoline for their coverage of the 2017 Track Battle season and their excellent video work with us out at Bondurant. Watch the video below if you don’t believe us.