Step on the Accelerator and Free Your Soul: How an All Girls Driving School with Cadillac V-Performance Academy Changed Me Forever

Cadillac Girls Driving School

This is Why Cadillac V Performance Academy Should Be On Your Must-Do List.

You know the feeling: you walk into a classroom with six other people to learn  something completely new and you wonder: Can I do this? Are they all good at this? Or novices like me? Will we be friends at the end of this? And most importantly, will I throw up from the anxiety???

That was the feeling I got as I checked into Cadillac V Performance Academy at Spring Mountain Motor Resort. I was Cadillac’s guest for this first ever all-female driving class and excited to be there.

I was also a little nervous. Driving school is serious stuff. Cadillac’s V series cars are serious performance machines. And, performance driving is filled with foreign language-like lingo that is unfamiliar and not intuitive to how I live my life.

But performance driving is maybe the single most thrilling giggle you’ll ever have and totally, completely worth being at the top of any girl’s bucket list.

From our first track lesson, how to act and react when conditions are not optimal.

Don’t Go it Alone: Bring a Friend

I was made a little more comfortable by the women who surrounded me and soon, they became my friends, too.

Meet them:

Claire, who founded Ladies Get Paid, and her partner, Ashley. Sara, who runs a sports marketing company, Carol who works in social media for a major motor magazine, and Katie and Hannah from Cadillac. For all of us this was a new experience. [A small disclaimer here: I’ve had track lessons and learned to drive formula one open wheel cars, I’ve muscled my way through classes with men and learned to drive paddle shifters on the track with pro driver Gail Truess, but this was the first time I’ve been to a class like this. Yes, I was nervous and  yes, I learned a ton.]

Here’s why an an all-female performance driving class is awesome:

  • No one gives you the snarky side-eye when you ask a a question
  • No obnoxious testosterone. We love testosterone in the right setting, but when you’re learning to handle a 4,000 lb., 465 horsepower racing machine, you want to be among level heads, not amped-up egos
  • Lots of good questions and very little assuming. Women don’t want to guess, they want to know
  • Instructors love teaching women; women listen, learn and respond
  • No scolding or bad behavior talks; no one was taken off the track for doing something they shouldn’t have
  • Reduced anxiety; these women were calm
  • And last, the instructors are there to help us love this. Don’t you love that!?!

Hot laps in the Cadillac ATS-V on the track at Spring Mountain MotorSports Ranch. Just listen to that engine (and the giggles!)

Cadillac Girls Driving School

Our class, and Tom, our coach, who taught us how to use the Cadillac’s driver feedback features including the personal data recorder, which videos your drive. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Learning Curve #1: You Expect Me to Learn This and Remember It, Too???

OK, in a cooking class, classic literature or real estate class, yes, you are expected to remember what you learn. But you can refer to your notes when needed and you aren’t put on the spot at 65 MPH on a tight track in a 4,000 lb, 465 horsepower monster machine. That last part makes this a little different. That’s why learning curve #2 is so key to the smiles and personal satisfaction this class brought.

We took a tour of Spring Mountain MotorSports Ranch, both as an observer and in a Cadillac ARTS-V on the track.

Learning Curve #2: Coaching Vs. Teaching

We weren’t just simply taught, we were coached. No person can reasonably be expected to remember and apply all they learn in a driving class. It takes time behind the wheel to learn to concentrate, develop muscle memory and gain experience so you don’t just think behind the wheel, you act and react.

Think about it: Driver’s Ed requires 8 hours of driving time before a new driver can be licensed, and that’s after way more than 8 hours of classroom learning.

This Illustration Shows The Proper Cornering To Make Around The Apex, Or Top Of The Curve, For Maximum Speedcadillac Girls Driving School

This illustration shows the proper cornering to make around the apex, or top of the curve, for maximum speed. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Putting Classroom Lessons To Work On the Track

The process that our lead teacher Randy and his team at Spring Mountain took us through was ideal: teach and practice, teach and practice. We learned the principles in a classroom session before heading out to a short driving course to put these new skills to work.

We started off with skill building on a short course, including:

  • Skidding around on a wet track so we could learn how to stay in control or regain control when the car starts to fishtail
  • Learning to make turns only looking out our side windows—with a screen across the windshield so we couldn’t look out the front!
  • Braking while steering to experience the magic that is ABS — and yes, it’s pretty magical

Having a Coach in Your Cupholder is an Amazing Thing

In some cases an instructor hopped in the car with with us to coach us through the course. In other cases they were watching us and talking to us on the two-way radio lodged in the cup holder. They are clearly pros at this; they could see when we were over thinking, when we were intimidated and not doing all we could, and when our instincts were right on.

The short course lessons gave us skills that we’d need on the longer track where we would be approaching speeds of 100 MPH. If we fishtail or when approaching a turn we’d need good muscle memory to remain in control and be at our top performance, which of course, is the goal. ?

Cadillac Girls Driving School

Hands at 9 and 3 and ready to drive. I really love the suede steering wheel on the ATS-V. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Learning Curve #3: Track Lessons Make You a Better Street Driver

Of course this is what we hope for, but it’s really cool to drive through my daily routine and see how to make a turn without losing too much power or over using the brake, how to recover from a fishtail and to how have more fun on roads that before I’d regarded as long and boring.

And, it’s rewarding to feel more in tandem with the car and the road. I’m driving the car, the car isn’t driving me. And when that happens we can be one with the road, which that takes us to learning curve #4.

Track safety has lessons for other sports too; meet the HANS device.

Cadillac Girls Driving School

Helmet face is something to be very proud of. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Learning Curve #4: Butterflies in the Stomach are Actually Exhilaration Waiting to Explode

With the short course experience we all felt more confident to hit the track. During lunch we could hear the Corvette school whizzing around the track. Earlier we’d seen them parading in and out of the pit area as they went through the paces of their classes. While the sound of the Corvettes on the track was intimidating at first, it soon became inspiring. During lunch we stood along the wall that lined the track and watched the Corvettes whip through the turns and skate down the straightaway. We would be doing that soon!

Our coaches had us pull out of the pit area in lead-follow groups, a few of us behind a coach so he could talk to us on the two-way radio. He coached us to learn the track, use the paddle shifters and maximize our speed and power to optimizing the track’s curves and turns.

They could see when our wheels were in the right place, know when we kept up our speed, when we mastered a tight turn and when we turned too late to keep our speed up. What they couldn’t see, not right away, anyhow, was the grin and giggles going on in the car. They might sense, though, that I was in a zone. That I wasn’t just driving, I was flying, the power of that V-6 engine becoming wind under my wings. And that the tired, deflated sense I might give off at the end of the day was really just fatigue from a full day of being elated and adrenaline-charged.

Cadillac Girls Driving School

The track at Spring Mountain Motor Resort. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Living That Oh Yeah Life. And Yes, You Should!

At the end of the first day we all had dinner as a group. Dinner conversation was fun but low key; it was like that the next evening, too. The giddiness that women have when they first start to bond was smoothed over by our shared experience and our exhausted adrenaline supply.

We enjoyed learning about each other, connecting and exchanging social handles and business cards. But we were already in a groove. We had done something amazing. We were about to do more amazing things. We knew if there was a good question someone would ask it. We knew that we would learn from each other, not just our coaches. And we knew how each was feeling as she got into her designated Cadillac and hit the track.

She felt amazing. Thrilled, exhilarated, fulfilled, even if a little dizzy from all the speed and g-force. She did this. She proved again that she can do anything.  And that is an amazing feeling. 

Attendance at Cadillac V Performance Academy is complimentary to all new Cadillac V series buyers; 2-day instruction packages can be purchased for $2,470.

Disclosure: I was Cadillac’s guest for this driving experience; travel and accommodations were provided. The exhilaration and personal achievement described here are all my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss