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Bondurant’s Lessons Span the Globe

Bob and Pat Bondurant, school instructors and staff recently greeted a 31-member delegation from Shanghai General Motors China: “欢迎来邦杜兰特学校” (“Huan Ying Lai Bang Du lan Te Xue Xiao”): “Welcome to the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving.”


The group from the People’s Republic of China participated in a full-day Bondurant course, which included the track challenge, auto cross, team slalom, hot laps and skid cars, in which an instructor electronically places a Cadillac CTS into a spin and shows drivers out to regain control of his or her car.

The Chinese drove Bondurant School cars as well as normally aspirated, alternative-fuel and turbocharged Buick Regals brought from local dealerships. The Bondurant instructors were Rob Knipe, Will Parker, Austin Robison and Tim Rose.

As with many groups and students worldwide, the Bondurant School was the target destination for the Chinese students. The next day, they returned to Los Angeles and then back to Shanghai, headquarters of Shanghai General Motors.

The group included Chinese media, translators living in the Valley, management and marketing staff from SGM Buick the winners of the annual Buick S Curve Challenge, organized by the SGM Buick brand.

“It’s one of the most successful grass roots auto-cross competitions in China,” says Joy Zeng, event coordinator for SGM, the largest new car seller in China last year, offering brands such as Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet. Partnering with the Chinese government, Shanghai General Motors maintains three factories in China.

“It’s is a timed race on a custom-made course, and two people race at the same time,” she explains. “Shanghai General Motors held this race in 37 cities in China last year, and the two winners of each city were invited to come to the U.S. for skill training at the Bondurant School.” She notes that the entrants participate through dealerships organized and managed by SGM Buick.

In its third year in China, The Buick S Curve Challenge came about because Buick — the most popular American car there — wanted to further contribute to the vitality of the country’s booming car culture, she explains. The mission is to create a more-informed consumer among the first generation of car enthusiasts in China.

“Buick has built an environment for China’s automobile industry in a very position and healthy way,” she adds. “There isn’t a race in China like the Buick S Curve Challenge that can grab this attention because it impacts the general public — not just certain customers who would come in to see our cars anyway,” she explains. “Anybody who has the enthusiasm and passion for race or cars are welcome to participate in the races.”

China4The race and the visit to the Bondurant School is part of this new enthusiasm for automobiles that has been driving China into a new era for the last 15 years. “More and more people have the chance to be close to the automobile manufacturers and understand more about the process and the cars themselves,” she says. “They become educated and understand more about China’s automobile markets through an interesting and exciting way and, in turn, become our advocates in the marketplace.”

Of course, Buick gains more attention of the Chinese public and more potential customers in an increasingly competitive auto world. “It’s a win for Buick brand, a win for the public, a win for Chinese grassroots racing and a win for China’s auto markets,” she says.

“Joy reached out to me a little more than two years ago, and this is SGM’s fourth visit to the school,” says Chris Loftus, manager of Individual & Group Sales for the Bondurant School. “She is well versed in the driving community there, and this has been a mutually beneficial relationship since. We are hoping to continue it many years into the future.”

The students learned new skills, which they took home.

“The group did have a good time at Bondurant,” Joy says. “The instructors worked proactively and flexibly as well as provided the greatest patience with our group. Our participants improved their driving skills after the training. It was a once-in-a life-time experience for them.”

One participant, Mix Tan, was visiting the Bondurant School for the second time. He came first in 2010 as part of the SGM program.

“I had more fun this time,” says the writer for magazines, Web sites and television. “The first trip I learned more skills.” His home is Guangzhou, the third largest city in China, about 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong.

“The Bondurant coaches are excellent and made it easy and fun to learn,” he says, “and I am looking forward to bringing more automotive awareness back to China.”

Sun Delong is in the import/export business in Qingdao, a major seaport, site of the famous Tsingtao Brewery and the world’s longest sea bridge, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge. This was his first trip to the Bondurant School and the United States.

“I am learning a different way of thinking and attitude,” he says, noting that in China more intensive driver education, such as with simulators, is reserved for professional drivers. “I am learning how to control the car better, when to hit the gas and when to hit the brake. I am enjoying the experience at the Bondurant School and will return to China a better driver.”

Says Bob Bondurant, founder of the world-famous driving school, the only purpose-built facility in the world: “It was great to see the Chinese and Buick of China back here again improving their race craft. Our Chinese friends are very dedicated to learning the Bondurant Method to improve their driving skills.”




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