Challenge Locations 2006
This year AMG challenge
was hosted at several locations around the country
including California Speedway in Fontana CA, Lime Rock
in Lakeside CT, Autobahn Country Club in Joliet IL,
Homestead Speedway in Miami FL. For the 2006 season
there was a driving school operator switch from the AMCI
group to the Richard Petty Driving Experience group.
is always the best event in my opinion. Autocross is a
great way to work on your driving skills and find your
limits as well as those of your vehicle in a safe and
As the instructors always
say - smooth is fast, but its easier said than done, and
pretty much everyone always overdrives the car in their
attempt to produce faster laps. We would get three laps
to lay down our best times. Many guys had their fastest
times on their first cautious reconnaissance lap
learning the course, and would then blow their 2nd and
3rd laps, hitting cones or overshooting the stop box
trying too hard.
had two separate autocross events on different courses -
the first was with the C55 and the 2nd was with the
CLK55 - a perfect car for tossing around these tight
tracks. The CLK55 is loves to be pitched into a corner
and its quite tail happy and it begs to be driven with
the ESP off, but they were having none of that. I did do
it once and was soundly reprimanded by one of the course
leaders, and had my time disallowed. The CLK55 autocross
course was also used to determine the fastest driver of
the day, so everyone was giving their best.
What made it so
frustrating was that there were rolling thunderstorms
coming across the track throughout the day, so some
groups got to do it on a dry course, some in the wet and
some in-between. In order to make it fair to those
driving in the wet, pro driver and all around good guy,
Tommy Kendall, would do a baseline lap with every group
in the conditions that they were experiencing, and the
times would be measured against his baseline.
Interestingly enough, the wet times were only 0.5 second
off the dry times, and many had their fastest times in
the wet because they were driving conservatively and
smooth and not overdriving the car as is so often the
in the day on the C55 course most of the group was
running mid 28 second laps and I had one great run
laying down my best time of 27.0. When I saw the time I
punched the air with victory as it was clearly the BTD,
but only minutes later the grin was wiped clear off my
face as one of my team mates, Helio drove a spectacular
26.6 utterly destroying my morning!
By the time we rolled onto
the CLK55 autocross event, I had all but given up on
winning the coveted IWC Ingeneur watch that IWC
generously provides to the driver with the fastest
autocross time, expecting Helio to whoop my ass. But as
it turned out he never could lay down a fast enough lap,
and I ended up being the fastest guy in our group on the
CLK55 course by quite a wide margin, with a time of
27.5. I had no idea if it would stand throughout the
day, as there were sure to be fast guys in the three
is always a fun event - Each driver gets to run a lap of
the autocross circuit, and has to finish with the car in
the stop box. This is where the driver change takes
No running is permitted
in the driver changes, so really fast walking is
the name of the game and some pretty funny walks (ala
John Cleese) emerge from the group as everyone tries to
hustle the changes
More time is lost in the driver
change than can ever be made up on the course so smooth
driver changes are vital and a good team leader does the
thankless task of buckling in the new driver before
almost having his feet run over as the new driver leaves
the line. While we appeared to have a great team run
going, team Red did not win the team autocross trophy.
The Go-Kart module was
added to the AMG challenge this year to mixed response.
Sure it great to ride in a kart and get the sensation of
speed, but there are Go-Kart tracks all around the
country and its really easy to go karting if you want
to. While I enjoy the karting I would much prefer to use
the time for more seat time in the AMG vehicles that I
Despite my reservations I
still enjoy this module, and give it my best. Helio and
I were fastest qualifiers in our group but no match for
Paul who absolutely slaughtered our qualifying times to
win the fastest go-kart qualifying time of the day.
In the race we started in
reverse order - fastest qualifiers at the back - and I
managed to work my way up to 3rd place.
is normally the best part of the event, but for me this
year it was a disaster. In my first outing I had a
really cool right seater Bobby who quickly figured out I
knew my way around the course and let me have my head of
steam, and it was good.
The track was not well
thought out - last minute changes were made and never
refined. By the time I got to drive in the video car, I
was stuck behind slow traffic and ended with a few
really slow laps. I also had an experience with on
driving instructor, an accomplished and well respected
instructor who took exception to something I did and
proceeded to cuss me out - not something you expect at a
Mercedes AMG event - especially to a repeat customer who
has attended 7 AMG Challenge days.
Lapping with Pro Drivers
As with all the AMG
challenges, the final module is HOT LAPS with the pros.
Cars used were the CLS55's, CLS63's E55's, E63's, and if
you were lucky you got to go in the SLR with Tommy
Kendal. I made a good move and got to drive with my good
friend Adam Clarke. Adam is a really cool dude from Down
Under where he has a boat load of Australian midget and
go-kart racing titles to his credit. He is fast, smooth
and is one of the most competitive guys I have ever met.
It was really interesting to watch the pro in front of
us miss almost every apex on the entire track and
frustrate Clarkie no end.
last - I can finally rest. After attending both events
at Homestead in 2005 (where I won the graduate
challenge, and like Chappy, only won a radio controlled
SL) the graduate event at Road America in 2005, both
events at Lime Rock 2006 and now the Homestead event, I
figured I had spent around $12,000 in the pursuit of the
highly coveted IWC Ingeneur watch that is presented to
the fastest driver in the Autocross.
today I returned triumphant. I have had so many 2nds and
thirds it was almost comical being the bridesmaid so
often. But now I can rest - I have the wonderful watch
on my wrist as I type this - Many thanks to IWC and
AMG - you guys rock.
to Paul for his Harmon Kardon Speaker trophy for his
fastest go-kart qualifier, and for bringing so much
humility, energy and good clean fun to the group, and to
John Krahulec who won the 2nd place in the Autocross,
not forgetting to Phong who was the most improved driver
in the Red Team..
What a pleasure - I have
done this event so many times you would expect that I
would be jaded, but I am so far from being jaded. I
cannot get the smile off my face for months afterwards,
and the best part is getting to meet so many cool people
who are passionate about motor cars just like yourself.
And having access to so many talented instructors, and
especially to really special guys like Tommy Kendall,
Adam Clarke and Rob Allen makes this event absolutely
the most fun you can have for your money.
So as I have said several
this straight. If you ever see an AMG challenge event
advertised anywhere and I mean anywhere - send them your
money that day, book your travel and get there early.
This will be the most fun you will have for the money,
October 10th 2006