After more than a year away from the track due to COVID-19, Mercedes-Benz Australia (MBA) is pleased to welcome their customers back to enjoy a range of driving experiences. From a half-day introductory course through to a full-day of pure AMG exhilaration, Mercedes-Benz has you covered.
I recently sampled the half-day Accelerate program at Sydney Motor Sport Park and I think that it offers good value for money at $550. The session starts with a welcome coffee and morning tea or lunch, depending if you do the morning or afternoon session. After this Head Driving Instructor Peter Hackett takes you through a brief overview of the Mercedes-Benz range that you will be experiencing during the event and then you are off to the track!
The Accelerate event is open to both Mercedes-Benz customers and non-customers, so if you are thinking about purchasing a Merc it’s the perfect opportunity to experience a wide variety of their vehicle range away from public roads and without any pressure from salespeople. It’s all about getting a taste of the entire Mercedes-Benz range and what their vehicles are capable of. You will drive an electric EQ vehicle and the bi-turbo powered Mercedes-AMG GTR and pretty much everything in between.
Participants are broken up into three groups to work through the vehicles on offer and you rotate through the day’s activities. I started by driving a S Class sedan, A Class hybrid, a GL SUV and an E Class cabriolet around the track where I got to see both their acceleration and braking performance. It should be also noted that you are not required to wear a helmet for these activities because you are in the car at all times with one of Mercs professional driving instructors and are limited to 150km/h while driving.
Next up was the highlight of the day for me, spending quality time driving the Mercedes-AMG C63S. MBA have five C63S’s as part pf the 2021 fleet for their driving experiences and you get to drive them on-track! The session lasts for about an hour, so there is ample opportunity to get a lot of laps in and work on your lines and braking points. The session ends with a hot lap, driven by one your instructors so you really get to experience what this sedan has to offer.
The last session involves some time on the skid pan with a GLA to test out your reaction skills and some of the safety technology available on Mercedes-Benz vehicles. You also get to drive an E Class fitted with special plastic tyres that enable you to get very sideways in the wet at very low speeds. This is great for demonstrating over steer and under steer and how your driving and the car can help you out of these emergency situations.
Then I moved along to the off-road track to put a GLS through its paces on a 60% incline, over undulating terrain and through the water splash. All I can say is ‘wow’; you wouldn’t expect a luxury SUV on standard tyres to do the things I did on that off-road course! The last thrill of this session was some laps in the monster GTR and I was delighted that Senior Driving Instructor Chelsea Angelo was guiding me around the track. It’s the first time I have been to a driving event for any of the car brands where one of the instructors was a woman.
Chelsea is currently competing in the Australian TCR championship and started in motorsport at the age of six on a motorbike and she has been part of the Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience/ADA crew since late 2018. Chelsea admits that motorsport can be very intimidating, but her advice to any young women wanting to give it a go is “…don’t be scared, and never give up and…if you put in the hard work and commitment, results will follow.”
“I love motorsport because it’s a challenge. There aren’t many women involved in the sport and it’s a hard industry to get into, but that’s partly why I love it – because it challenges me to prove people wrong. In a good way, of course! This is the same with performance driving. I love seeing the excitement customers have when coming to a track day,” Chelsea told me.
Chelsea’s favourite part about being an instructor is seeing the satisfaction that people get out of the day. “I can see it brings a lot of joy, and as an instructor it’s not only my job to keep them safe and help them learn about the cars, but most importantly it’s to make sure they enjoy their day. If I can do that, and have every customer coming away from a MBDE/ADA track day with one new skill, then I know I have done my job right,” said Chelsea.
For any women who may be hesitant to participate in one of the Mercedes-Benz driving experiences, Chelsea has this to say “take the opportunity even if you think it’s not for you. There isn’t one customer I have worked with at a MDBE/ADA day who has regretted taking part in one of these days. It gives women more confidence to come out and enjoy these days without feeling intimidated.” I can second that also, all of the driving instructors at the Merc events are great to deal with and you will definitely leave the track with a smile on your face!
Chelsea is also an ambassador for the Drive Against Depression (DAD), Driven Women Magazine’s official charity partner. DAD is a charity that helps spread awareness of mental health topics through driving. During the COVID lockdowns a lot of people struggled mentally, whether that was through anxiety or depression or something else. DAD really helps driving enthusiasts to come out and express how they’re really feeling with like-minded people.
“We go for long drives as a group so we can at least take our minds off things and make time to talk. Driving is like freedom to a lot of people. So, by having days throughout the year where people can go for a drive and feel good about themselves, I think is fantastic. We want to spread the word and provide support around mental health topics, and being an ambassador for DAD is doing just that,” said Chelsea.
In addition to the Accelerate experience there are also two Mercedes-AMG drive days that are available via invite only through your dealership once you have purchased your AMG. The AMG Performance-Training is your entry to the AMG Driving Academy. You will spend the day learning the intricacies of these iconic race tracks and guided by one of our experienced AMG driving instructors, behind the wheel of a number of specially prepared AMG vehicles. This full-day activity costs $2,600 and is currently sold out for the next events being held at Phillip Island.
If your need for speed has not been fully exhausted then your next step after you have completed the AMG Performance-Training is AMG Advanced-Training. It gives you the opportunity to hone your track skills with higher speeds, more laps and a focus on technique. With the capabilities of the specially prepared AMG vehicles and the expert guidance from instructors, expectations are high and you will be suitably rewarded with emotion, adrenaline and memories for life. These sessions cost $3,000 and there are currently places available at both Phillip Island and Sydney Motor Sport Park for events later in the year.
One thing I can say from experience is it can be difficult to secure your place at these invitation-only AMG events because they are very popular and sell-out in a matter of minutes when they go on sale. By far my favourite event was the Bathurst 12-hour and the drive day that was held after to event, driving on Mt Panorama at speed is something that will stay with me forever.
Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.