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Jane Thurmond “Spirit of the Event” Competitior; OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational

(Las Vegas, NV) Now in its seventh year, the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) has grown from a small twenty competitor event to a national series, with ten qualifying events and televised broadcasts on MAV TV. The field has grown to as well, and regularly includes the “best of the best” when it comes to talented drivers and customized and powerful vehicles. This year’s field of competitors was no exception.

When I checked in at the OPTIMA Battery booth at the SEMA Show, I was very pleased to learn a number of women drivers would be competing in this year’s event. As a Corvette owner and enthusiast for many years, Jane Thurmond’s 1964 Corvette entry immediately caught my eye. Jane graciously agreed to a brief interview at SEMA, and as we spoke, I knew following her competitive drive at the invitational event would be interesting and lots of fun.

Jane’s racing career began just one short year ago, and in that time, she has learned a lot. Her focus is upon building her driving skills as well as developing the physical and mental strength it takes to drive competitively. Jane also believes in living life to its fullest, and wants to send an important message to other women that life doesn’t end when the kids are grown and off to college. As Jane says, “I want to show the world that at ANY age we can have a rocking good time and do things others may not think possible.”

When asked about her preparation for the event, Jane shared, “Something that I feel is essential to any individual who wishes to compete in motor sports is to participate in a regular fitness program. My choice is yoga. I’ve been practicing for more than a year regularly and it has improved my racing ability tenfold. At first I started to be more at ease at the starting line. But what has happened over the last year has been so much more than just that. Less head drama, better track awareness, and no exhaustion after a day or two on the track. To prep for SEMA, I ramped up my workout and added the 30-Day Squat Challenge. Virtually no residual pain or recovery time necessary after that long week!”

Jane’s husband Greg, a competitor himself, designed and built the Corvette they co-drive. Jane’s “ticket” to the Las Vegas Invitational event came at the Portland Ultimate Street Car competition held earlier this year, where she earned the K&N Filter “Spirit of the Event” award. It was clear that Jane was excited to be at the event, and that she was taking the competition seriously.

When asked how the car performed, Jane noted, “I believe I mentioned our car has a name – Scarlett. She performed incredibly! Light and nimble in the auto cross with a short wheel base! Our suspension has been fine-tuned by my amazing husband. This has been a year in the making, if you will. Switching out sway bars and shocks to find the right combination. Adjusting the camber, watching tire pressure. Right now we have RideTech shocks and Falken Azenis Tires (sponsors), and this seems to be working great.”

The car looked like it was hooked up very well on track, and Jane’s big smile at the start let us all know that she was having a blast driving the car. Jane shared some of the preparation work that went into the car before the event. “Greg put in a new power steering pump and rack before this event that worked brilliantly. Street Tune for The Win handled our engine tuning, and that helps to keep me off the rev limiter! But so did changing the gearing! As for future improvements? I want more power. This little car has about 420 HP. If I could get my hands on a super charger, I think I could solve that issue and run a little stronger in both the speed stop challenge and road course. The high powered beasts leave me in the straight-a-ways!”

While still somewhat new to driving events, Jane says she enjoys all types of competition. But this year’s street car invitational would test every driver to the limit, and require competitors to run the gauntlet of performance. Competition events included the Wilwood Speed Stop Challenge, the RideTech Street Challenge Autocross, and the BF Goodrich Hot Lap Challenge.

With this many challenges, which event did Jane enjoy the most? “I’d have to say that my favorite part of the competition was definitely the autocross. This was my first experience with a mirrored track that allowed me to actually race another competitor. The result was amazing. I drove faster and better and had greater confidence. Sure it’s awesome to race a clock for time. To set up and go when you’re ready. But the added element of wanting to leave the line first, cross over the finish line first – now that’s a rush! …..Least favorite part – seeing the weekend of bliss come to an end. Actually a friend, Mike Cavanagh, that we race with regularly, had some difficulty with his braking system, and to keep from causing a small disaster he chose to steer away from the crowd and in the process compromised his front end. Definitely my least favorite part of the event.”

It was a true joy to meet Jane last weekend, and from the enthusiasm she displayed, along with her driving performance, we know she’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Jane provided us some great overall reflections on the weekend, as well as outlining her plans for the future.

“Truthfully I had the time of my life. Having been a full time mom and wife for the past 25 years, I’ve had the luxury of enjoying everything imaginable with my kids. But now as they have one by one left the nest, my husband and I have found something that we LOVE to do together. Almost like picking up where we left off before having our amazing kids. A real thrill for me was to have my youngest son (16) come up and give me a high five after each run, each event. The pride in which my husband gushed when he shared with me that a woman standing next to him during auto cross exclaimed, “That’s an *****ing woman driving that car!” Then he promptly responded with, “That’s my wife”! The absolute sense of community between racers, families and fans is unreal. I imagine as more time passes I will grow even fonder of each memory of my experience with OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational.”

Jane’s goals are to continue to improve her driving skills, and to become even more hands-on with the car. Husband Greg is in the process of building a second car so they can each have their own ride next year, which will require Jane to step in with the maintenance and preparation on her own car. Jane is totally up for it though, and is looking forward to everything the future holds. Jane shared her overall thoughts on the event with us, stating, “I finished 46th (in the competition) which is awesome. I saw who I finished behind and who I finished ahead of, and I couldn’t be happier with where I placed. My first road course and speed stop challenge was at USCA Fontana on Father’s Day in June 2014. OUSCI was my third event for speed stop and second for road course. For having very little experience and instruction, like I said I couldn’t be happier.”

Special thanks to the staff at OPTIMA Batteries, including Scott Parkhurst, for hosting another awesome Ultimate Street Car Invitational. We look forward to following Jane’s racing career, and believe she will inspire other women to get behind the wheel!