"It was wonderful. Between each race and hillclimb, you're doing a rally. After any event, the car is always in impound and unavailable for any mechanical work until the next race segment starts." The 1964 rally challenged the resources of Bondurant and co-driver Jochen Neerpasch as they drove the Daytona Coupe CSX2300 to its limits.
Early in the race, they realized they were taking carbon monoxide into the cockpit from a broken exhaust system, so they made a special tool-a small, flat piece of wood. "I would have Jochen stick the piece of wood out the window to bring some fresh air in, and I would open my door to draft the carbon monoxide out." Most of this was happening at speeds above 140 mph.
Next Bondurant had to "fix" a broken throttle cable by placing a French franc under the linkage, setting the Cobra in full-throttle position. "I put it in gear, fired it up and drove by shutting the ignition off going into a corner. You had to be prepared to hang on when you turned the throttle back on!" They had the pit crew change it during the next stage.
"So now we're late and the other cars have already left. Coming down the highway, I said, 'We need fuel.' I told Jochen to grab one side and I would grab the other." The Daytona Coupe had quick-fill tanks on either side. "So we were filling it up and a little Frenchman came out to admire the car. When we got done we threw the hoses back to him, jumped in the car and took off! He must have been saying, 'Gosh those crazy Americans stole my gas!' So we got down the road to our emergency pit stop and said, 'You'd better take care of that guy back at the station.'" The crew topped off the gas tanks and, according to Bondurant, "that's when we really hauled ass as we came to the city of Rouen." They drove directly into a traffic jam and knew they had to somehow get through it or be late for the next stage, which would mean disqualification.
"We were blinking the lights and honking the horn and finally got to an intersection where we had to drive up on the sidewalk." He jumped the curb and started making time down the sidewalk, blaring the horn and sounding off the open headers as people dove clear of the Coupe. When they made it through the intersection, they pulled the Cobra back onto the street with more than a few people shaking their fists. They headed south.
Their next destination would be the beach-and that meant driving for many miles down a narrow highway with no shoulders. "We were doing 150- to 160 mph down the road. When you came up on another car, you had to judge your distance, because it was a two-lane highway. And beach traffic was coming back so you'd blast by [a car] and duck back in again." Bicycles, cars and old farmhouses were a blur as they charged toward the next stage. "We did that for 45 minutes to an hour, and Jochen had never put on a seatbelt-he didn't use seatbelts at that time. So I looked over and he was putting it on, and he said, 'Please, please be careful, Bob.' And I said, 'Don't worry. Self preservation prevails!'
"When we finally arrived at our checkpoint, we had 16 seconds to spare or we would have been disqualified."
After a valiant run, they later lost a clutch in the Le Mans section of the event and had to drop out, taking a DNF after a nine-day adventure. The following year Bondurant won every event he entered driving a Cobra-and the GT Class Manufacturer's Championship for Shelby and Ford.