The Bondurant High Performance Driving School, now under new ownership, has hired Franki Buckman as chief executive officer and general manager, the Chandler, Arizona, school announced Thursday.
Buckman will assume day-to-day operation oversight of the famed performance driving school, the announcement says, as well as setting strategic goals, managing the guest experience and leading the team of instructors and other employees.
She will take over as chief executive from Bruce Belser, who has been running the school since he and two other investors purchased it in May from veteran racing champion Bob Bondurant and his family, with plans to expand and improve the offerings at the driving academy, where racers and enthusiasts, teens, police officers and many others come to hone their driving skills.
Buckman has an extensive motorsports background as a “track leader with a history of operational, sales and marketing success with motorsports programs and properties,” the news release says.
“Buckman has been involved in the auto industry since 1990, when she joined Pro Formance Driving Events and Motorsports, a national ride and drive company and sister organization to Arizona’s only CART professional Indy Car Team fielding driver Scott Pruett at the time,” the release says. “There, she worked directly for the owners, who were experts in the field of automotive events and included racing names like Breedlove and Unser.
“She then spent 18 years at Firebird International Raceway, working directly for NHRA Funny Car legend and track owner Charlie Allen, who originally brought the Bob Bondurant school from California to Arizona.”
After leaving Firebird Raceway in 2013, Buckman has been a media and event consultant to a number of brands and companies in the automotive industry.
An Arizona native, she lives in Chandler with her husband, a former racer and second-generation IndyCar crew chief and mechanic. Buckman’s sons also entered the motorsports industry and raced at an early age; her oldest son is still an active driver.
“I had the opportunity to work directly with Bob (Bondurant) 25 years ago, and I’m thrilled to have the chance now to help carry on the unique method of driving instruction that the long-tenured team of trainers at the school still teach today,” Buckman said in the release.
“The automotive industry, high-performance driving events and motorsports in general are really more a part of who I am now. It’s in my blood. I look forward to being further immersed in the industry as part of a team representing a brand that I am not only familiar with, but truly believe in.
“I’m excited to work with a top-notch staff and team that’s proven over the years they are truly second-to-none both in service and knowledge and have been responsible for the consistent high-quality experience the Bondurant clients and guests receive every day.”
The Bob Bondurant High Performance Driving School, located just south of Phoenix, has been running its full slate of driving classes since the takeover by Belser and his partners, co-owners and fellow racing enthusiasts Jeff Hunter and Pat Velasco.
The three comprise a business entity called Stig Investments, which in true motorsport fashion is named for the anonymous race driver on the original Top Gear automotive program.