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Thread: My trip to the AMG Diving Academy.

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  1. #1 Default My trip to the AMG Diving Academy. 
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Your mom's basement
    I had the opportunity to go take the AMG Driving Academy at Lime Rock last month. A large number of Mercedes of Burlington customers went together, so MBOB organized a rally down to the track. AMG customers get a free trip to the academy, so the vast majority of the people that went down were driving brand new AMGs to start with.

    They did a great job organizing the run down there, and even gave all the cars a sticker for the trip, plus everyone got a nice branded cooler filled with snacks (including rally essential Haribo gummy bears, and I was super impressed with that). Since I drive a shitbox that is not at all fit for any kind of rallying, I rode down with Andrew, one of the sales guys at MBOB in his tuned CLS550 (red car in the pics).

    Here's a bit of the lineup before leaving the dealer:

    The drive down was fun but everyone was very inexperienced. There were no radios, the directions weren't great, and quite a few people got split up on the trip down. There were two incidents of people getting pulled over (including the same car twice). But I know nobody really cares about the drive down, so I'll skip to the academy itself.

    AMG rents out the entire facility for the academy and makes good use of it. They set up a chalet where we were served breakfast and lunch, and had brief classroom time and were introduced to the instructors, who were all professional racing drivers.

    We were split up into color teams and everyone headed outside. We all did a round of calisthenics to warm up and were given a couple minutes to ogle the cars that were brought.
    Quite frankly, it was pretty freaking ridiculous. There were a shitload of brand new cars. CLA45, SL63, E63, CLS63, C63, AMG GTS were all for us, and they also brought two SLS Black Series and two C63 Black Series that just kind of hung out.

    The teams jumped in different cars, and everyone headed out. Everyone partnered up, so there were two to a car. Lucky for us on the Blue team, the first exercise of the day was to do a lead-follow on the tack in the AMG GTS. We had two instructors, Rene and Amy, who were both great. I was with Rene most of the day. Quite a few people in our group thought he was kind of mean, but I loved his teaching style, and thought that's kind of how a driving instructor should be. Anyway, every car had a radio for the instructors to communicate with us. We would run a couple laps, switch drivers, and repeat. We also stopped on the track at the corner just before the hill for the instructors to go over why so many people crash there and the proper technique for taking it correctly. We started out relatively slow, but picked up the pace quite a bit as the session went on. The guy I was with had never driven a car hard in his life and started the session scared for his life, but loosened up a little bit once he was behind the wheel.

    Unfortunately our time with the GTS came to an end and we parked the cars for another group to get a try. One thing that left a huge impression on me about these cars was every single one of them had the shit beat of them all day long and they were left running with the AC on with absolutely zero issues in any car.
    We jumped in some SL63s next, and practiced line technique on a shrinking radius corner set up with cones. This is my "why are you taking a picture of me" face in the car.

    After getting yelled at while not braking late enough and turning too early, I got the hang of the corner and had a good time at this section. Each driver got about 5-6 runs before we ditched the SLs and jumped in some E63s and CLS63s for a little drag racing and running the slalom. The drag race was set up in pit lane, complete with a little tree, and each person got their own car. The race was only ~500ft or so, and then we had to stop in a stop box. Then we headed out to the main straight of the track for the slalom. These two cars are big and feel big, but they still did a halfway decent job in the slalom and I definitely thought it was fun. The drag racing was probably the least exciting event of the day.

    After the drags and slaloms, we jumped in CLA45s to do some ABS panic stop lane changing exercises. There was a gate with a speed sign set up, and the instructor had us start at 30mph and go up to 65mph, then she added a row of cones for us to go around while braking, again ramping up the speed.
    On the first stop from 30mph, my partner did not expect the stop to be so violent (not sure why as the instructor told us to try to push the brake pedal out the floorboard) and he got tossed around in the car from not bracing himself. He ended up going home at lunch time, along with about 10 other people who just couldn't handle the driving.
    This event was cool but nothing spectacular. The CLA45 is pretty much a too expensive Evo. There's no other way to describe the interior as other than cheap for a Benz, and the motor has a shitload of turbo lag, but the car is fun if you think of it for what it is, a kraut rocket. Unfortunately there were no pictures of this event.

    We ditched the CLAs and jumped back in SLs to another decreasing radius corner exercise, which again I enjoyed greatly but I think some other people may have found a little more boring. This included the instructor standing at the edge of the course when nobody was taking the right line and telling us to try to hit him with the car, which was actually a pretty good way to find the turn in point.

    Next was the wet/dry skid pad. We got in C63s and went over to the pad. They wet a small section for us to get the tires wet, then we were supposed to just give it a goose to make the rear end kick out a little and learn to correct the car. Of course everyone thought this was the fast and the furious and tried drifting instantly, resulting in everyone spinning out multiple times, and one guy going off the track and taking out a fence post (who funny enough has a C63, and I told to check out YR, hey Rouman). I spun out two or three times myself going for larger slides than what was recommended until I got the hang of it. I also had the instructor ride along with me a couple times which helped a lot.

    After the skid pad, we broke for lunch. After lunch, we actually went back to the skidpad for some more sliding, and people were starting to get the hang of it a bit better.
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  2. #2 Default  
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Your mom's basement
    We left the C classes to jump back in the CLA45 for competition autocross. Lime Rock has its own autocross area, so while the course was laid out with cones, there were actual corners and elevation changes which made this much more fun. We each did three practice laps, and then three timed laps.
    The CLA45 drives like a little turbo go-kart and was super fun to beat the absolute crap of around the course. The turbo lag meant you were full throttle in the middle of a corner, because by the time you were exiting the turbo finally caught up. This course also made it painfully obvious the car is a FWD platform with AWD sort of tacked o, because it very much felt (and understeered) like a FWD car.

    (I do not know why an e class is out on the autocross course here, but these were just parade laps to show the course and nobody was driving fast).

    After autocross, we headed back to the track. The first thing we took out were SLs around the full course in a lead/follow configuration. I actually thought the SL was pretty capable around the track. It obviously has gobs of power but it was very stable cornering, more than I expected for sure since it's always touted as being the old man car of the Mercedes range. I also really like the interiors of the SLs. Not every car was the same, and there were various levels of trim packages and color combos for Mercedes to really show off what they can do.

    Next up were C63s. I don't know if I got one with balding tires (they replace them every couple days) or what, but I did NOT feel very stable in that car out on the track, and swung the ass end around hard on the left hander twice. Amy led for this one, and while you might think they kind of baby you in a factory sponsored event driving factory cars, but she was going at a very good clip in those C classes. They were certainly fun, if not as confidence inspiring as the SL might have been. I also think the tiny stock tire width has a LOT to do with this.

    Then we got back in the GTSs. I will tell everyone who will listen about just how fucking good this car is. It makes you feel like you're Lewis Hamilton out on the track. It's so stable, the transmission mapping in Sport+ shifts just like you would if you were driving a stick, and the power is both instant and endless. The GTS is the best car I've ever driven, and I have historically not been a Mercedes fan.

    For the last run of the day, they put you in groups of two plus an instructor, and record a video of you running three laps as a souvenir. Thankfully, the instructors paired the peope going on skill level so they wouldn't get left behind, and drove accordingly. This part of the day made me SO SO happy I had Rene as an instructor. I watched other people's videos, and they looked like they were crawling around the track compared to the pace he set for us. You can actually see us catch the group in front of us in my video. Most of the videos I watched, pretty much nobody went full throttle down the no-name straight, and people just barely broke 100 down the main straight. I hit 126 on the one clean run I had down the front straight, which is by no means anywhere near the limit of the car, but was a pretty good pace for the academy.

    After our recorded laps, we did ride-alongs with the instructors, either in GTSs, the C63BS, or the SLSBS, only one of which was running, not sure why. Since there were about 50 people, they drew names out of a hat for the SLSBS. I got picked, and my instructor was the driver. When I got in the car, I told him to try to scare me. He didn't, but he still drove the shit out of that car, leading to this face after the lap.

    After everyone got ride alongs, we went back to the chateau for a closing ceremony and the results of the autocross. Our team won with the fastest average lap time, and we were given these little cone trophies:

    Andrew who I drove down with won the overall autocross time and got a free customized AMG helmet out of the deal.

    In all it was one of the most fun experiences I've ever had, and AMG definitely does it right. There were what seemed like a million workers there, they had drinks, snacks, and shade at every event for everyone, and the event overall was run like a well-oiled machine. To go is certainly expensive if you didn't just buy an AMG and get it for free, but I think it's still a decent value, especially when considering tire costs for all those cars (the academy partners with Continental so every car is on those rather than OEM tires). I had a blast, and now that I've done the beginner course, I can do the two day advanced course at either Road America or Laguna Seca. I'm seriously considering it.
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  3. #3 Default  
    I'm so jelly. I just want to go to the track again.

    Also my want for a C63 is pretty high so it was disappointing to hear about the lack of confidence in that car
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  4. #4 Default  
    Looks like a blast. The wet track is a cool idea. Wish that was a part of drivers ed.
    '00 Mercury Cougar V6 5spd | '13 Ford Fusion SE 2.0l Ecoboost | My site: Skolenimation
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  5. #5 Default  
    Quote Originally Posted by LastMercury View Post
    Looks like a blast. The wet track is a cool idea. Wish that was a part of drivers ed.
    it can be. i plan on having my son have that training. there are schools that have that as an add on
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  6. #6 Default  
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Blog Entries
    Dammit. Must go
    The disease runs deep, relapses often, not looking for a cure, just another sick bastard to share it with.
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