EW’s Brittany Kaplan gets behind the wheel at the Mercedes-Benz & Glamour AMG Driving Academy Experience.
Working somewhere like Entertainment Weekly often has incredibly fun perks — like getting to see movies before they hit theaters. I have been lucky enough to screen some upcoming awards contenders ahead of time and one that I just haven’t been able to get out of my head is Ford v Ferrari, opening Nov. 15. The sweeping drama, starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon, is the story of Le Mans winner Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his friend, test driver Ken Miles (Bale) as they — all puns intended — race to build a vehicle for the Ford Motor Company worthy of winning Le Mans, attempting to beat all other competitors, even Ferrari. The film’s tagline reads in part: “There’s a point at 7,000 RPMs where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless. It disappears. All that’s left, a body moving through space, and time.”
Well, here’s what you need to know about me: I love a beautiful, long drive. I love a sleek car… and I have a very heavy foot. Suffice to say, the tagline got my attention. The film had me at Bale and Damon, and the rest of this movie stole my heart and had me transfixed. It also left me itching to get out and give in to my own need for speed.
So you can only imagine my excitement when the folks at Mercedes-Benz reached out to tell me they were planning an event to celebrate female entrepreneurs, journalists, and women who were disrupting the norms of their respective industries — oh, and the highlight of the trip would be a day of racing.
Which brings me to a recent Wednesday morning, when I hopped on a flight to Carmel, Calif. and set off for the Mercedes-Benz & Glamour AMG Driving Academy Experience to celebrate Glamour Women of the Year.
We were to head to the WeatherTech Raceway, Laguna Seca bright and early on Thursday morning, but first we gathered at the Bernadus Lodge & Spa for a celebration and chat about how to elevate women in various industries — from small business, large corporations, boardrooms and, you guessed it, racing.
The next morning we hopped into sprinter vans and made our way to Laguna Seca. After being split into four teams we were introduced to our instructors for the day. I must admit, my limited knowledge of the world of cars and racing had me thinking it was a more of a boy’s world, so I was incredibly excited to meet our instructor, Shea Holbrook. Shea is a seven-time Pirelli World Challenge Winner, Bonneville World Record Holder, and currently competes in the W Series & F3 America’s — oh, and she is doing all of that at the ripe old age of 29!
Shea took us on several different courses throughout the day; while most people were most excited to drive the actual track, I loved the exercises the most. Two of the coolest things I’ve ever done — ever! — were Autocross (where you learn skills such as line, braking, and steering technique as well as throttle control) and the Drift Competition. Now, I’m not saying I am ready to star in the next installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, but I’m also not saying I’m not…. We also were encouraged to drive a wide assortment of the Mercedes-AMG lineup, from the CLA45Coupe to the GT R.
The pièce de résistance, however, was when we were each invited to hop in the passenger seat and take a ride with one of the female racecar drivers who had been teaching us all day. It was a thrilling, empowering experience. Racing is A LOT of fun, and, if after seeing Ford v Ferrari, you are inclined to go out and try it like I was, I encourage you to do so (safely, with an instructor) — no matter your age or gender. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience — and a heck of a lot of fun!