Found your $500,000 and plunked it down on one of the new, race-ready Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s? Mercedes has just the driving program for you via their AMG Driving Academy.
Like any good instructional racing program, students will be brought into the SLS AMG GT3 through a ladder system. Drivers must go through the following four stages before being allowed out on the track on maximum attack: Experience, Warm-Up, Training, and Competition.
Drivers will become familiar with the street-legal SLS AMG before taking the wheel of its GT3 variant. They will then be led around the track before taking the passenger seat for some demonstration laps by a professional racing driver. This section should cover about three hours.
Key to driving the wheels off any car is familiarization. Even the best drivers in the world will need a lap or two to get used to equipment, and AMG Driving Academy participants will spend their warm-up getting acquainted with the SLS AMG GT3. A physical fitness team will monitor driver well-being, and instructors will go over accelerating, braking, gear changes, and overtaking on a track setting. Handling exercises will be conducted on grooved tires in the interest of learning car control. German residents get an extra perk: participants will have the chance to earn their national DMSB (German Motor Sport Federation) license.
After starting on grooved tires, the SLS AMG GT3 will get switched over to slicks. With even greater contact patches and grip levels, instructors will help the drivers focus on cornering, line, braking, and all the requisite skills needed to attack a track with tenacity and confidence. Training is also available on an hourly basis for racers in need of a tune-up session.
Here's the stage the racers want. Because the SLS AMG GT3 program is considered a Masters level program, those who reach this stage will be subjected to individual analysis before taking part in personal and team competitions. There's just one catch. Competition won't officially start until the end of 2012, so drivers should probably spend as much time in training as possible.
The AMG Driving Academy has five program levels. In order of advancing difficulty, they are: Emotion, Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Masters. Prices start from 370 euros ($500) for the Emotion events geared towards lifestyle drivers. The SLS AMG GT3 events will command at least 1500 euros ($2100).
The tracks used for instruction vary. In Germany, Mercedes uses the North Loop of the Nürburgring, Hockenheimring, and Spa-Francorchamps, all illustrious in their own right. New for 2011 is Austria's Red Bull Ring, formerly known as the A1-Ring.
In the United States, selected circuits include Laguna Seca, Lime Rock Park, and Laguna Seca. Customers from China can drive on the Shanghai International Circuit or at Zhuhai. Future events for Canada and Japan are being planned too.
The provided instructor list might as well be a who's-who list of German racers. Reinhold Renger is the chief instructor. Fellow instructors include five-time DTM champion/touring car ace Bernd Schneider, Formula 1 safety car driver/24 Hours of Nürburgring winner Bernd Mayländer, and Thomas Jäger. Helping to infuse some youth are Chris Mamerow and Scot Susie Stoddart.