IT HAS become part of the Australian Grand Prix tradition.Mercedes-Benz boss Horst Von Sanden writes a very large cheque to the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and, in return gets an empty, pristine grand prix circuit for one day – a motoring utopia called Albert Park. Into this place they bring 34 sporty AMG production cars worth around $7.6 million and assemble a collection of AMG owners and enthusiasts, celebrities and motoring journos. As well, they bring together 34 racing drivers, including Australian motorcycle legend Mick Doohan, to act as tutors/overseers to the drivers.
Picking a string of cars to drive in the allotted hour is like picking the finest dishes from the menu of an exclusive restaurant and my selection looks like this: for an appetiser the stately S63 with 5.5 litre, twin-turbocharged V8. For entree a red C63 station wagon powered by a naturally aspirated 6.2 litre V8 and main course is a delicious and quite rare CL 65 AMG worth a mere $519,000 (give or take). Dessert? A CLS twin-turbo V8 flown in especially for the occasion.Understand that this is serious business and not for the faint-hearted. Helmets are chosen, footwear checked, nervous visits made to the loo and then we are off, our driving instructors Birmingham barking instructions at us. Acceleration is atomic, braking brutal. Eyeballs push forward as the heavy cars are slammed from 220-230 km/h to 60-70km/h at the end of the main straight.Bodies are then pushed back into seats under huge acceleration as drivers pick up throttles midway through that corner and keep winding on the power until the next command to “Brake!-Brake!-Brake!-Turn-in, roll-onto-throttle-ease it-ease it-now full power!-Go!-Go!-Go!” is given.On a mild day in an air-conditioned car we sweat, big time. It ends as quickly as it began and the stories start to flow as we try to one-up each other with tales of bravado and speed.Me? I’m just happy that I went fast and stayed away from the walls. You see, no one remembers the quick guys, but they never forget the bloke who manages to bash or bury a half-million dollar car on a special day in Melbourne.