The art of spin
The AMG snow driving course is wildly exciting — and a lesson in control
‘‘ The whole idea is to lose control. That’s what we want,’’ saysAMGSnow Challenge chief instructor Peter Hackett.
‘‘ Most people never know they are out of control until it’s too late. This program allows us to teach people in a safe environment and let them experience things you would never normally want to encounter on the road.’’
Most driving schools concentrate on the basics. They show you the correct seat position, how to set the mirrors, holding the wheel the right way, coping with panic stops.
But this isAMGand that means a minimum of nannystate lecturing and maximum enjoyment with $3 million worth of German pocket rockets on specially groomed surfaces at the Ski Farm in the mountains outside Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island.
It’s the latest development that allowsAMGowners to sample some of the world’s fastest cars on track days at Phillip Island and Albert Park, home of the Australian Grand Prix. It’s not cheap—$4500 for the snowfield excursion— butAMGprovides everything from the cars and instructors to lunch and a special beanie.
The C63 sedans, coupes and wagons are showroom stock— apart from special Continental winter tyres that have been designed to provide the best possible grip on the snow and ice that’s all around.
‘‘ When it gets as cold as it does here a normal tyre is almost like plastic. Zero grip,’’ says Mercedes-Benz Australia technical chief Gordon Jones.
With 30km of snow roads around us, and a very special ice pad where it’s almost impossible to stand, any help is going to be welcome. The seat heaters, for a start, are switched on for toasty buns.
The day starts with a bang, as we attempt a full-on, straight-line V8 blast. It should be simple. But there is a twist.
Hackett and his instructors disable the electronic traction and stability controls that make the C63 so user-friendly on the road, leaving the driver— and his right foot— to handle the balancing act between giant power and tiny grip.
Some of us spin, most wiggle-waggle, and I reach the finish line on the verge of a spin after discovering that anti-lock brakes are virtually useless on the ice.
Next up, we hit the 200-metre ice pad and discover that first gear and a tiny tickle on the throttle will leave you almost powerless against spinning. One car has to be pushed out of the snow bank lining the edge of the ice.
As the day goes on, and we get more familiar with the cars and the snow, there is more fun and almost endless V8-powered slides and skids. It’s not hooning but it gets close as the instructors encourage everyone to explore their personal limits.
Gover steer: Electronic aids disabled, the
C63 AMGs take to NZ’s Snow Park . . . sideways