Thursday, May 13, 2010

AMG Driving Academy 2010

I have recently received my invitation to the upcoming AMG Driving Academy for 2010 in Laguna Seca.  The price of the event, taught by Skip Barber instructors, range from $1,500 to over $3,000 depending on the level and tenure of the instruction you choose.

I was fortunate enough to attend the event last year. The course I signed up for was their first ever SLS focused introductory driving class to introduce the Mercedes AMG SLS to the public.  Because of this, the $2,000 package included one night stay at the Intercontinental in Monterey as well as a dinner reception the evening before. 

I have to admit AMG Driving Academy does not market this program very well.  As an outsider looking in last year, I didn't really see the value of attending the course, and my gf was the one who convinced me to go to this once in a lifetime event. 

Personally, after attending the event, I think the event is worth every penny (as long as you're the type that doesn't easily get motion sickness). It is also very easy to see that Mercedes Benz definitely subsidizes the event, as the event itself is easily much more than the entry price I paid.

Here is a recap of the perception I had going into the event vs. the reality:
  1. I had the perception that we will only be driving some of the lower end cars, and only receiving taxi rides on the more advanced and expensive vehicles.  The reality is they had a fleet of AMG vehicles that outnumbered the attendees the morning we arrived.  You get full track time with every single one of the AMG vehicles, from the C63 to the SL63, and especially the SLS.  We were encouraged to push the vehicle as much as our nerves allowed.  Most of the time it is our own self preservation that prevented us from pushing the car beyond the limit, not the instructors.  
  2. We chose not to initially purchase a visitor/guest pass for my girlfriend because the call center adviser told us that it was only a "tent" and the guest will not be allowed outside of the area.  This $600 price for a visitor only pass is well worth it.  The area is not a tent, it is a full blown lounge with a full service bar and cook to order lunch and brunch.  Your guest is allowed to both stroll around in the paddock, as well as participate in the taxi rides with Tommy Kendall and Bernd Maylander (current F1 safety car driver).  In addition, your guest will be treated very well by the AMG employees and even make a few friends.
  3. I thought we would get minimal track time.  In reality, we only spent a total of 30 minutes in orientation, and I think if anything I probably should have spent more time studying the track and how to drive.  We immediate went out to the track and got in our freshly serviced and detailed vehicles.  This was around 8am and we drove straight through until 5pm.
There are also several things that as a first timer I did not realize, but will know for future events.
  1. As someone who gets motion sickness easily, you can opt out of riding shotgun with your partner around the track.  This way, you have time to recover.  I spent most of the morning feeling carsick when my partner was driving and never got to enjoy the instruction as much as I could have.
  2. Push the car.  That was something I was scared to do but I should have pushed the car harder. 
  3. Eat minimally for breakfast.  Although the program includes a full buffet breakfast before the event, don't eat too much.  Participates in classes before ours who ate too much ended up throwing up in the car.  Yuck!
Here are some pictures from the event.

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