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Turkish Father and Son – Driven to Bondurant

Written by David M. Brown

How far will people go to attend the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving?

A month ago, Dr. Yilmaz Argüden and his son, Ege, reaffirmed that the Chandler school remains the premiere driver training facility in the world.

Yilmaz traveled 6,721 miles from Istanbul, Turkey, to meet his son in Arizona to complete the 4-day Grand Prix Road Racing class at the world-famous Bondurant campus. During its 43-year history, the school, on the Gila River Indian Community at Firebird Raceway, has trained more than 350,000 people to be better professional and street drivers: NASCAR legends to high school students.

The class teaches the basics of car control, vehicle dynamic, heel-and-toe shifting and skid control, explains instructor William Hawkins, who’s been with the Bondurant School for 14 years and racing cars for 30. For the first three days, Yilmaz and Ege drove 2011 Grand Sport Corvettes; the fourth day they were out in the school’s Formula Mazda race cars.

“For Yilmaz, it was a father/son bonding experience and for Ege, it was something that he has always dreamed of being able to do,” William says.
Ekber Onuk, the designer of high-speed Yonca-Onuk boats, recommended that Yilmaz and Ege attend the Bondurant School rather than any other in the world. “Ekber is a friend of mine that I have great respect for, and he also a role model for my son,” Yilmaz explains.

Ege, who is studying auto design Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and who also wants to race also looked at the schools in Europe and U.S. “None offered a complete experience I was looking for, and most of them did not have enough driving practice included,” Ege explains.

From the Bondurant Web site, he selected the 4-Day Grand Prix Road Racing course: “It was perfect. It covers all the basic training I need to get into racing, it had a lot of driving practice (80-percent driving, 20-percent theory), and I was going to be able to get an SCCA license by completing the course.”

Next, he had to convince his dad to sponsor him — as well as ask him to join him for the classes.  A former chairman of Turkish-US Business Council, Yilmaz is founder of ARGE Consulting and chairman of Rothschild investment bank in Turkey. He is also a professor at a number of universities there.,
“As I had been doing well in school, he readily agreed,” says Ege, who was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Turkey. “I was very excited and delighted.”

For the last two years, he’s been studying in Pasadena, pursuing his dream of building cars and boats.

“I’ve always had a passion for cars, my favorite toys were cars, even the first word I said was ‘car,’” he says. “When we were outside, I’d watch every single car passing by, listening to its engine sound.”

His other passion is drawing: “My father’s favorite picture of me is the one where I was drawing while I was 6 months old, and my mother still has the drawings I made when I was 2 years old. When I started kindergarten, my favorite activity was drawing cars.”

When he was 6 in a car with his dad, he was watching cars passing by and asked his dad how the cars were made. “He told me that designers imagine them and sketch them first. I immediately knew that was my dream job,” Ege recalls.

When he was 12, he met Ekber Onuk, the boat builder who asked him intern on a car project that he started in his shipyard. While working there as an intern on the weekends, he also spent time at the Ford factory in Istanbul, and Yilmaz took him to a number of auto shows in Istanbul and Europe. He also participated in the design competition organized by the magazine AutoZeitung and won second prize.

He met Murat Gunak, head designer of Volkswagen Group, when he was 16 and showed him sketches. This led to an internship in VW Design Center in Potsdam/Germany that summer; he followed the next summer with a Bugatti project in Potsdam. The next summer, he completed an internship at BMW in Munich. These three experiences reaffirmed his goal of becoming a car designer.

The four-day Bondurant experience helped him further prepare for his career and for future road racing. “William Hawkins watched me very closely for four days, spotted my weaknesses immediately and helped me improve them,” Ege says. “He was great.”

“As a designer, I felt that I needed to be able to understand completely how the car reacts to the driver’s movements and to be able to have a full control over the cars I drive,” he adds.


“I had high expectations from the Bondurant School but ended up getting even more than I expected,” he adds. “I’d recommend this course to everyone. It didn’t only teach me how to race; it sharpened my driving skills on road traffic as well. And, it was the most fun experience I’ve ever had.”


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