The art of spin

The AMG snow driv­ing course is wildly ex­cit­ing — and a les­son in con­trol

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

‘‘ 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

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