Bob Bondurant – Interview and Profile Page Six
SCD: After Watkins Glen where did you race F1 again?
BB: Mexico, the next race. Scarfiotti drove the same Ferrari in Mexico that I had driven. I went down there with my helmet and suit, just in case. I ended up driving a Lotus for Tim Parnell. He was getting pissed because (his driver) Innes (Ireland) was late and so I was hanging out and Gurney was there. And Tim said, “Bobby, did you bring your helmet?” I said I did. “If Innes does not get here in time then I am going to put you in the car. Are you good with that?” I said, “Yeah.” It wasn’t a Ferrari, but I would get experience in another F1. So I got in the car and Innes finally came back about an hour later, and I asked Reg if I should get out, and he said no. Probably pissed off Innes, ha ha. So the car really worked good, but after about three-quarters of the race a trailing arm broke and put me out of the race. I was coming to a left-hand corner and when it broke a guy with his camera looked like he was falling over backward trying to get out of the way. So I talked to him afterward and asked if he was OK. He said, “You were doing really well. I’ve never seen you drive before.” I said it was my second race. That was the day Richie gave Honda their very first win.
SCD: Didn’t you drive an F1 Eagle?
BB: Yes. The next year I drove for Gurney in the Mexican and American Grands Prix. In the V12 Dan was having overheating problems and the four-cylinder car was working well, so he took over the smaller one and I took the V12. It never overheated when I drove it. He was probably driving it harder, I am guessing. Something happened to me at Watkins Glen. I missed the straightaway and went off once and got back on, but they said I was disqualified, I did not know I was disqualified. In Mexico, we were 16th. The fuel system failed, that is what happened. We were in 8th place. I was racing against the best. After Mexico then I got a ride for the Tasman Series in a BRM alongside Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill. The next F1 race for me was Monaco, where I ended up fourth. I had run that race before in a F3, so I knew the circuit well. The first time I ran it I was the fastest qualifier and set a new lap record.
SCD: How many years did you race F1?
BB: I only ran F1 for one year; the end of ’65, those two races U.S. and Mexico, and almost all of ’66. My car was a two-liter BRM, and the early part of the season the other teams all had engine problems with the new three-liter engines, so it was like a sixth-place car. Then as the others got their engines going it became a ninth-place car. It was a private team, and they weren’t quick about getting things fixed. The last time I drove for them in the pouring down rain at Watkins Glen they got the car there late and never even cleaned it up, so I grabbed a handful of wrenches and checked every nut and bolt. Some were a half turn loose, and I thought, “This is not the way I want to go racing.” I never thought I would give up an F1 ride, but I told them, “You know, I just can’t drive for you. I need to find a ride where I can trust the car.” The guy was not a F1 mechanic. He worked on some rich guys’ personal cars. Nothing big like F1 cars. He got to Monaco late. I was working on the movie then, Grand Prix, so we were driving the track every day shooting film. So my car arrived but he never brought it to the track on Friday. So I didn’t get to drive it until Saturday. The battery was dead. It died going through the tunnel. I thought, “Oh shit, this is not good at all.” It was never a great car. So they fixed it and I started last and had to work my way up. I went the distance and finished fourth, and it was wonderful and they gave me points. All the other F1 racers said their car was better. The English Grand Prix, I was doing well there and finished ninth. It was really becoming a ninth-place car.
I always liked racing F1. I had always wanted to do it, and I would have liked to have stayed. When I thought I was going to drive for Gurney, I was real excited about that possibility and I knew I would do well. But then he felt he needed Richie to help him sort the cars because Richie was good at that. Jimmy Clark taught me a lot. I met him before I was racing F1, when I was driving Cobras. A lot of times the Cobra was a support race to the F1 in places and once I lost a rod coming around a corner. I sat down and talked to him later and I asked him when you brake for a corner trying to slow down do you brake hard? He said no. I said, “Do you brake a little softer and carry the braking longer?” And he said, “Yes I do. How did you know this?” I said, “That is what I do in the Cobras.” Graham Hill also taught me. He was driving for BRM too. Jackie Stewart was really helpful, and we all got to know each other pretty well. For me, F1 meant not having a real competitive car to teach me how to drive F1 and drive with those guys. I drove them hard and it surely was a super experience for me. I was really hoping in ’67 I could drive for Dan, and I knew we would do well. Both cars were set up well and he was always tinkering with little shit and it always worked. Then some little thing broke and I just figured if I just drove and left the car alone then I could do pretty well.