In an old mining town in the high country of Colorado, California native Jane Thurmond secured the coveted position of driving instructor at the world-renowned Bridgestone Winter Driving School (BWDS). There she would learn from the BWDS director and driving guru Mark Cox. To round out Jane’s incredible adventure, she would learn from some of the best in the industry, including veteran racer and BWDS Operations Manager Kurt Spitzner.
If you’d asked Jane ten years ago what she thought she’d be doing today, this wasn’t even on her radar. In fact, she is still taken aback from the success and virtual rollercoaster ride of a motorsports career that began just five short years ago, on a whim.
Call it serendipitous and perhaps the stars were aligned on one very auspicious day in April, 2016, some Colorado friends included Mark on a guy’s trip, and brought him along to meet up with Jane. As luck would have it, he had a chance to see her drive. He suggested she spend a season in Steamboat to up her race game, and she did just that!
She packed her car and headed to the old Colorado mining town of Steamboat Springs in the high country. Having never driven in snow, let alone lived in snow, it was a real leap of faith that got her to this point. Believing he saw something in her ability ultimately gave her the confidence to make the 1,000-mile trek to a town where nothing was familiar. New job, new home and new friends. She was all in on this bet and it seems to be paying off.
“It has been the most life changing experience short of marriage and children. To think I packed up some belongings and left home for four months, I mean it sounds a little crazy! But to be a part of this organization, the history and to be doing something I am passionate about is such a gift. I have to say that when my students learn that this is my first season here in Steamboat, that before December 2017, I had never driven on ice and snow, the looks on their faces show a bit of shock. But by days end, they’ve had a chance to connect with me, connect with the science and really hone in on who they are as drivers and what they need from me. In no time at all we develop trust and they are learning and doing things behind the wheel that many never thought possible. That has truly been the best part of this experience. And my own confidence behind the wheel has gone up—immeasurably!”
Jane has proclaimed that she quite literally grew up around cars. From her father’s influence to her high school friends, she doesn’t remember a time that cars weren’t a big part of her life. In fact, she admits that she said yes to a date with her now husband Greg because as she put it, “What can I say? He was cute and had a cool car!” The rest you might say is history in the making. Together they have grown and owned the successful, nationally recognized Corvette specialty shop, GTS Customs with primary focus on restoring and building resto-mods.
Now after five very successful seasons racing and competing in local and national events from parking lots to big tracks, Jane is making a name for herself and inspiring women wherever and whenever she can to break away from the norm and try something—anything different.
She has gone from weekend racer to making a career behind the wheel. Whether it’s precision driving for film or television, racing or teaching, she is determined to explore all the opportunities that exist beyond the shop!
“I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of the automotive community. To have been recognized by my peers and be a part of the SEMA #SheIsSEMA campaign that is highlighting women in the industry is so humbling. So often we women hear that the automotive industry is really a man’s world. But I disagree. I believe we women bring an exciting element to the industry. We are competent and capable, whether behind the desk as an executive, under the hood as technician’s or even, like in my case, behind the wheel. We have a lot to offer and it’s a great time to be involved” she said.
As the winter season draws closer to an end, for Jane it is bittersweet. The Bridgestone Winter Driving School campus is just six miles from her home away from home. It is located in a picturesque farm country that makes the drive to work beautiful. The snow-covered rolling hills where she teaches every day is heaven on earth. But the insanely cold weather, with temperatures that reach well below zero on any given day, can be a bit troublesome when setting up the tracks. And the excessively long work days can wreak havoc on even the most cheerful of people. The adventure has, however, been nothing short of incredible. Everyday getting the opportunity to learn and live her passion, Jane insists the rewards far outweigh the risk.