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Old 09-18-2008, 12:20 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 223
report on this year's AMG Challenge

Following is a brief description for anyone who might be interested of the AMG Challenge, a $1200 invitation-only event that Mercedes holds for AMG owners (and owners' approved guests) which I attended yesterday at Pocono raceway in PA (a NASCAR track).

Full day (7:30AM - 6PM) of driving almost the entire AMG lineup with professional instructors (Tommy Kendall, Rick Andretti, etc.) -- autocrosses, skid-pad, track time on courses partly using the main Pocono straightaway and oval, and various other excercises plus AMG pro driver hotlaps and other demos. Divided up into three teams of 16, 16 and 15 participants each doing different activities simultaneously, so huge amounts of seat time.

Track time: drove C63 (new compact with 6.2L V-8), E63 (midsize), CLS63 (sloped-roof 4-door sedan/coupe) and SL63 (full-size two-seater hard-top convertible) -- "follow the leader" with one pro and three participants each time for 4 - 7 laps a turn; two sessions, one morning and one afternoon, each on different layouts with a high-speed portion on the main oval/straight-away.

Skidpad: drove CLK55 (5.5 liter small two-seater hard-top convertible) -- really going full-throttle out of a donut to snap the end out and then recover

Throttle control and brake course (modified autocross with an emergency stop box): CLK55 and SL63 -- got a lot of extra seat time here with pros riding along and coaching

Autocross: drove C63 in the morning session, and in the afternoon the star of the show, the CLK63 Black Series (essentially the Formula 1 safety car -- got three practice laps and one all-out timed lap -- cut 7 seconds off my [admittedly poor] C63 time) -- they had 4 CLK63 Black Series available for driving. Pros available to ride along and coach or you could go out on your own.

0-60 + emergency stop in a box: drove CLK63 Black Series with pro ride-along

Race start: drove SL63: a special full-throttle computerized launch and 1/4 mile run with pro ride-along to coach how to use -- did two full blow-out starts

Non-track driving around: drove S63 (full-size sedan), CL63 (full-size coupe) and ML63 (SUV) -- just used to shuttle participants from one activity to another -- participants could drive to check out the cars

Pro driver ride-along: hot laps on the main track circuit, skidpad exercises and emergency maneuver exercises with and without ESP (skid control computer)

A number of prizes for the fastest autocross tag-team event team (in the CLK63 Black Series) and individual C63 autocross -- the individual fastest C63 time got a $7,000 IMC watch (IWC was one of the sponsors).

They also had on display a SLR ($480,000 supercar) and a SL65 (two-seater hardtop convertible) and a CL65 (big coupe), each with a twin-turbo V-12, but they were not available for driving. They probably had a total of 60 AMG cars there for driving, with multiple cars at each activity to keep things moving.

M-B clearly wants existing AMG owners to re-up for the latest AMG cars, but not a hard sell (if you're already an owner and into them) as cars speak for themselves -- extraordinary power, technology and comfort).

Thought the $1200 was a bargain as each tire on these cars is about $300 and you're burning up their tires, gas and brake pads, to say nothing of renting the track, paying the pro drivers and staff and the wear and tear on the cars (you were encouraged to drive all-out but to stay safe -- M-B also hired the local ambulance and fire companies to have a fire truck and ambulance sitting ready all day -- no incidents). Crowd was probably average age 55, with several father-son duos and only one non-son driver who looked to be in his 20s.

Happy to provide any other thoughts and impressions if anyone is interested or has specific questions. I thought it was a tremendous bargain for $1200 and can't wait to do it again next year. They are also doing evengts in Miami and California this year.
'98 C43 AMG
'88 420SEL
'93 190E Limited Edition (including factory Sportline package)
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