Mercedes-AMG Win­ter Sport­ing Driv­ing School

Automobile - - Drives -

WHETHER YOU’RE A sea­soned pro born in the frosted forests of Scan­di­navia or a rank am­a­teur from the sunny streets of Los An­ge­les, the Mercedes-AMG Win­ter Sport­ing driv­ing school in Gimli, Man­i­toba, Canada, is the ideal place to ac­quire or per­fect low-fric­tion skills.

The cars on of­fer span most of the range of AMG’s re­tail equip­ment, in­clud­ing the CLA 45, C 63 S, and E 63 S. Lightly mod­i­fied elec­tron­ics al­low greater throt­tle and brake over­lap (a help­ful if not nec­es­sary fea­ture for driv­ing quickly on ice), and the cars wear cus­tom stud­ded tires and small car­bon-fiber frames to re­in­force their bumpers in the in­evitable event of a meet­ing with a snowy bank— but they are oth­er­wise stan­dard street cars.

Gimli is a small re­sort town founded by Ice­landic im­mi­grants. The tracks, carved on a lake be­side the event ho­tel and ex­tend­ing sev­eral miles de­pend­ing on the con­fig­u­ra­tion, fea­ture—like with La­p­land Ice Driv­ing—the real-world lay­outs of cir­cuits such as Spa-Fran­cor­champs and Barcelona, mi­nus the el­e­va­tion changes, nat­u­rally. Bet­ter still, th­ese cour­ses can tie to­gether, al­low­ing truly mas­sive laps and am­ple time to ap­ply and prac­tice the skills taught in the brief class­room seg­ments.

Ex­ten­sive seat time is the defin­ing fea­ture of the AMG Win­ter Sport­ing pro­gram. If there’s another, it’s the Race of Cham­pi­ons-style event put on to­ward the end of the pro­gram: Start­ing on op­po­site sides of a peanut-shaped ice track, par­tic­i­pants face off over the course of two laps to see who has best mas­tered the tech­niques of hus­tling a pow­er­ful car over ice. Im­bu­ing the Win­ter Sport­ing pro­gram with its laid-back at­ti­tude and gen­eral theme of “fun first, speed sec­ond” is the team of in­struc­tors, a jovial crew seem­ingly as happy to be loosed for a side­ways day on the lake as the rest of us, who make play of learn­ing, prac­tic­ing, and re­tain­ing the pe­cu­liar sen­si­tiv­i­ties and some­times coun­ter­in­tu­itive skills de­vel­oped dur­ing the hours spent slid­ing an AMG over the well-groomed ice. It’s not cheap, and it’s prone to sell out, but hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced more than a few such driv­ing schools, we can say whole­heart­edly that, AMG owner or not, you don’t want to miss this one. — Nel­son Ire­son

SUM­MER IS COM­ING The AMG ice track lies just be­yond the beaches of Lake Winnipeg, lit­er­ally a stone’s throw from the restau­rants, ho­tels, and shops that sup­port Gimli’s sum­mer­time tourism rush.

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