I just finished the AMG Pro-Academy at Road Atlanta yesterday and am compelled to share with all of you how awesome the experience was. While this has been going on across the pond for a while, this was the first time that open lapping and passing have been the focus of the Driving Academy in North America.
For those of you familiar with the old format, competition for the IMC watch was based on autocross competition. Under this format, the competition is based upon who can drive the most consistent three laps with points taken off for speed above or below your first lap, which is the target-more about this later.
The focus of the event is seat time in the entire AMG product line up through the SLS. At no time is there an instructor in the car with you. There is very thorough analysis of the track through sector training and lead-follow exercises before you are truly “on your own”. Initially, you are limited to no more than 4,000 RPM on any portion of the track gradually working up to 6,000 RPM- a great way to learn the paddle shifters.
So, what’s it like in the SLS? Turn 7 represents the start of the longest straight away at Road Atlanta. You’ve just finished exiting a slow-in fast-out turn and are in third gear at roughly 80 MPH at the turnout. You paddle shift up through 6,000 RPM’s in each of the gears and are at 150 MPH in sixth gear by the time you reach the braking zone for 10A. I suspect you’d be at 170-180 if they removed the 6000-RPM limitation. 150 MPH was more than enough for me. At the braking zone, the massive ceramic brakes make threshold braking a breeze along with downshifting to third to take the chicane –basically a 90 degree left hand turn followed by a 90 degree right hand turn. You enter the chicane at about 40MPH and exit at power uphill to throw the car under the bridge for a blind twelve-story drop to turn twelve. The folks in charge limited us to 80 MPH at the turn-in for twelve for good reason: if you don’t know the track and are not precise, it’s very dangerous. So- what’s it like in the SLS? Awesome!
Now: about the competition. Yours truly had a 3 second variance over the course of three laps and felt pretty good about it driving a CLK63 Black Series. The winner, in an SLS, did it in .3 variance, which was absolutely amazing! We were both in the same run group so we were probably running ¾ (remember, its about consistency, not speed) at laps under 2 minutes. Road Atlanta record lap is slightly above the 1-minute mark by way of comparison.
I will have a video feed available from AMG in several days, which I should hopefully be able to post on some of my laps.
The instructors were from Skip Barber- all pros with great credentials. We had winners from 24 hours at Le Mans, Petit Le Mans, Daytona, etc.
MBUSA made this available to club members at a deep discount of $1,900. The normal price is $3,900.
The price of the SLS? It starts at $200,000. A GT3 version is in development. The value of driving this rocket ship around Road Atlanta with very few restrictions? PRICELESS!!! Thank-you Mercedes Benz.:Thank You::Thank You::Thank You: