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Ladies, start your engines: speed demons cut loose at this racing school.

Looking for an activity to make your palms sweaty, your heart pound and your breath heavy? Sign up for racing school.

"There is nothing quite like driving around a race track," says Brett Goodman, president and owner of the Bridgestone Racing Academy outside of Toronto (race200.com). "It is one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world."

Goodman founded the Bridgestone Racing Academy in 1992 to meet the demand for top-notch race training. Today, the school teaches approximately 1,500 students a year how to drive Formula race cars.

Packages include the Thrill of a Lifetime, aimed at beginners. The one-day program provides instruction on the ins and outs of driving a race car before students are allowed to test their skills on the racetrack.

Instructors drive pace cars to cue students on taking corners, breaking and steering. On the track, students often reach speeds of 100 mph, taking turns and straightaways like the pros.

Going just once around the track gives some students the racing bug.

"There are no kids, no cars and no curbs on the track," Goodman explains. "It's just the driver and a wide-open race track; the experience cannot be matched."

Students looking to develop their basic skills can sign up for packages like Learn to Lap and Wheel-to-Wheel Racing, multiday courses that help refine basic driving skills.

The academy is staffed with full-time racing professionals, and its cars and courses are top-of-the-line. The cars are equipped with extra-tall roll bars and on-board fire extinguishers, and Goodman designed the track with few walls or guardrails, to accommodate beginners.

"We have a 24-year injury-free racing record," he says. "On this course, if someone makes a mistake, the only injury is to their ego."

The customizable track offers 24 different configurations to ensure a challenging driving experience for first-timers and experienced car racers alike.

Even race car driver Danica Patrick has spent some time doing laps at the Bridgestone Racing Academy.

Classes attract car lovers and adrenaline junkies. No matter how much time students have logged behind the wheel of a fast car before coming to class, nothing compares with the feeling of driving a race car.

"We have had people who drive Ferraris, Corvettes and Vipers get out of [the Formula cars] in disbelief," says Goodman. "One [racer] even told me, 'My Corvette feels like a farm tractor compared to this car!'"

Despite the adrenaline rush that comes with driving a race car, fewer than 5 percent of students at the Bridgestone Racing Academy are women. This fact surprises Goodman.

"Motor sports seem to appeal more to men," he explains. "But once you put a race suit and helmet on, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. You're both race car drivers. It's so incredible to be in the cockpit of a race car, driving it around the track. It's a life experience that will last forever."

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Title Annotation:WOMEN + WHEELS; Bridgestone Racing Academy
Author:Helmer, Jodi
Publication:Curve
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Words:484
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