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|20th April 2016, 05:00||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2011
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Mercedes: The 2016 Festival of AMG at Phillip Island, Australia
I was lucky to attend part 1 of the 2016 Festival of AMG at Phillip Island this year on the 9th of April. Part 2 is on the 22nd of May and I am very much looking forward to it, and will post a detailed report after! The whole experience costs $5000 for both the days and is by invitation only to Mercedes-AMG customers. The event fills up really quickly (this time the whole event was sold out in about 2 hours).
So, here is my experience!
You arrive at the Phillip Island race circuit and the pitlane is full - around 60 Mercedes-Benz AMG models valued at close to $7 million.
You’re escorted into the garage but it’s been transformed from a race garage to an architecturally designed combination of modern office and café with heating and air-conditioning, quality floor coverings, posh furniture, an MV Augusta motorcycle (the brand owned by Mercedes-AMG), the smell of fresh espresso and lots of flat screens showing AMG vehicles at speed.
Walking around - all in perfectly tailored black-on-black AMG uniforms - are race driver Peter Hackett and his team of fellow race drivers including some V8 Supercar and GT Championship stars.
‘Headquarters’ for the team at race circuits is their own F1-style truck that’s ‘glamour’ !! Welcome to the jaw-dropping world of the annual Festival Of AMG. Being an AMG owner certainly has its privileges and this is definitely one of them
Mercedes-Benz runs the AMG customer experience drive days through South-East Asia and the annual ‘Festival Of AMG’ (this year at Phillip Island) is the biggest with some Asian customers flying in specifically lured by the chance to drive around the Aussie motorcycle GP circuit.
They joined local customers in the three-day event (a different group each day) and some chose the five-star experience of flying from Melbourne to Phillip Island by helicopter (I didn't, I drove there in my rental car).
This experience in every way - quality, slickness of presentation, caliber of the staff, the driving experience, even the standards of the restrooms – the AMG day has lapped the field (in the same way as the Petronas Mercedes-Benz team is dominating F1 racing). Nothing is overlooked, everything is five-star and every participant gets to enjoy lots of race circuit laps in all models all with the expert advice of the AMG drive team.
And the best part - Mercedes-AMG bring their own cars to the event so you don't have to spoil your own car!
After a top-notch breakfast and wonderful barista-made coffee, the day kicked-off with the AMG instructors fronting a slick video presentation outlining what we’re about to do and of course the pitfalls of any ‘over-driving’ at the high-speed Phillip Island circuit.
There were only two ‘off-roaders’ during the day – an SL63 AMG sliding backwards into the gravel trap at turn two and apparently another customer had a wild moment on the grass at The Hayshed.
But to kick things off, for our first experience we were ushered out to the hairpin corner at the back of the pits where a fleet of the new AMG C63 S sedans were waiting and a water truck was hosing-down the surface.
This was their clever idea of a warm-up exercise – turn-off the traction control and try to be a ‘drift’ driver with the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 howling in first and second gears. It’s brilliant as you quickly forget everything else happening in your life and focus on driving – all at relatively low speeds of course.
Next-up was the main straight where a proper drag racing ‘Christmas Tree’ light system had been set-up and you worked through the AMG-A45, CLA 45 AMG, E63 AMG and SL63 AMG models, ‘racing’ whoever was in the other lane for a standing quarter mile and receiving a computer printout after each run with your reaction time and progressive speeds. This was a good exercise in sharpening reactions and sampling the ‘Race Start’ mode of the superb AMG products.
Then we were onto another exercise in the E63 AMG and CLS 63 AMG S vehicles with an instructor alongside coaching on lines, braking/acceleration and keeping your eyes up.
So, warmed-up and coached it was time for our first laps of the full circuit and it was easy to find the car to drive – just look for one with your name on the rear windows like a V8 Supercar (in my case it was an A45 AMG - the same as my car, but this had the full aero package with the spoilers and everything).
Three laps with an instructor alongside (essential for first-timers as Phillip Island is a difficult layout to learn with the correct line not always obvious). Then it was the same again in every different model – all with the speed limiters set at 150km/h.
A perfect time to break for lunch then. However, for the AMG instructors and mechanics the lunch hour is hardly a ‘break’ – in this time the technical folk and Continental tyre guys gave all of the cars a check-up to make sure they remained in tip-top condition for the afternoon session (tyre pressures were constantly adjusted as road tyres in these conditions really work hard - no nitrogen inflation BTW!)
After another word on safety from the team we were off on a disciplined run through all of the Mercedes AMG products, five laps at a time and no speed limit – so everyone drove all of the different models and at crazy speeds!
The day ended at 5:30pm just as the sun was going down. Time flew by and honestly this was the best day of my life! Seriously, this was even better than the day I graduated medical school!
Best car on the day was the AMG-C63 S. I really enjoyed the A45 too, but that sound of the V8 in the C63 was just something else!
I will post part 2 after attending part 2 of the event on the 22nd of May!
Now for the pictures:
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