Not just another day at school.

In June, I participated in the AMG Mastering Performance driving school.

http://www.mercedes-benz.ca/content/canada/mpc/mpc_canada_website/en/home_mpc/passengercars/home/about_us/driving_academy.html

This particular event was organized by Mercedes Benz Durham. Designed for the novice and enthusiast alike, it is a full day program that is conducted on purpose-built race tracks throughout the country. In our case the the famous Mosport Grand Prix race track known as the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

The objective of this program is to teach advanced driving techniques and apply them in a race track environment. This is not a “racing” program; rather, it is a high performance driving program. Our objective was to learn advanced techniques and how critical elements such as vision, weight transfer and the use of vehicle control systems ultimately affect traction and vehicle behavior.

Exercises:

  • Cornering
  • Trail Braking and Vehicle Balance
  • Performance Vision
  • Orientation Lapping – Learning race track line
  • Coached group lapping with instructor feedback

Bentley Hammer, President of Mercedes-Benz Durham was present to welcome the dozen or so participants. MBCA members will be familiar with Mercedes Durham as a regular sponsor at our MBCA Section events.

After a brief introduction and wishing us good luck, Bentley gave the reign over to Danny Kok, Chief Instructor of the AMG Driving Academy. Danny, a very experience instructor and race car driver, immediately became focused and task oriented. He again stressed that the event is not a “racing” day per se, but to teach participants advanced driving skills in a closed and controlled environment. If these skills will then enable you to drive faster around the track – even better.

Our detailed itinerary was as follows.

8:30 – 9:00: Catered breakfast and registration
9:00 – 9:45: Classroom session
9:50 – 10:05: Car assignment and checking proper seating position for all participants
10:05 – 10:45: Group exercises
10:50 – 11:20: Orientation lapping
11:25 – 11:55: Medium speed lapping
12:00 – 1:00: Catered lunch
1:00 – 1:20: Classroom discussion on lapping and cornering lines
1:25 – 2:30: Lapping with instructors
2:30 – 2:45: Afternoon break and Q&A session
2:50 – 3:20: Lapping session with instructors focused on individual needs
3:25 – 3:40: Final lapping session focused on the perfect line
3:45 – 4:00: Wrap-up, presentation of certificates and distribution of handouts and handbooks

Our cars were from the current Mercedes-Benz Canada line up. Over the course of the day, we all had ample opportunity to drive each car in various situations. While driving an SLS AMG is surely on every enthusiast’s bucket list, it was not the most impressive car for me on this day, but more on that later.
Beside advanced seating and handling skills, the main focus during the day was to learn to go around Mosport’s Turn 2 and 5 as fast and save as possible. Danny’s reasoning is that these 2 corners are very technical and mastering them will make any driver more than capable to navigate the rest of Mosport in an extremely brisk and performance oriented way.

It was very educational to drive so many different cars right after one another. It was clear that each car had very individual driving characteristics. But at the same time, all presented the famous and renowned “Mercedes” feel of substance, purpose and performance.

So what was my favorite Benz or should I say most impressive car of the day. The new S550.

This car is not only supreme comfortable and tranquil – as expected. Not even the AMG version, this S550 was also wickedly fast and capable on the track. It was maybe not the fastest car out there, but the way this S–Class luxury sedan let you dive into corners at high speed, take you around Mosport’s devilish Turn 5 and sling shot you down the straight was – well – a real surprise to me.

To sum it all up, the AMG Mastering Performance was an exceptionally fun and informative event. While the cosy of $1600 is not a bargain price for a driving school, please keep in mind that other schools do not provide you with all the gear and the cars and definitely not cars of the caliber of a S550, CLA45, E63 or SLS AMG. Also, taking you own car on the track as most other schools require, can easily cost you a few hundred $ just in wear and tear, the need to buy your own helmet not to mention and the risk of having your car being damaged.

Also, and I may go out on a limb here, I predict that if you get your new AMG at MB Durham you may be able to negotiate a discount for your next AMG driving academyJ.

In any case, participation is certainly well worth it.

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