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 AMG Challenge 2006 - Homestead Miami Day 1
         

   2006 AMG Challenge Homestead Miami - Day 1

Just imagine having at your disposal cars worth an approximate $3 Million with a combined horsepower in the 3000 range! I mean what could be a better way to spend your day, than tossing all that heavy machinery around a professional race course, and then walking away to leave someone else to clean up, change out the shredded tires and get them ready for the next day.

This is what I love so much about these arrive and drive events - its the incredible opportunity to push a variety of performance cars to their limits (or yours) in a safe and fun environment with a bunch of really cool car nuts just like yourself!

As always the AMG Challenge events leave me wanting for more. I just cannot get enough of this stuff. I grin from ear to ear all day and it never leaves my face - even for months after the event.

Miami Homestead Speedway

 

AMG 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.

Individual Autocross

This 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 productive way.

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.

We 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 case.

Earlier 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 other groups.

Team Autocross

This 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 place.

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  are.

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.

     

Go Karts

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 love.

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.

 Open Lapping

This 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.

Hot 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.

 

Prize Giving

At 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.

And 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.

Congrats 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..

Summary

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 time before

Lets get 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, guaranteed.

Danny Steyn

October 10th 2006

 

Rob Allen and A Few of our Brave and Trusting Instructors from RPDE

GUYS - please email me your names so I can add them to the AMG Instructor Hall of Fame!

Rob Allen - Mr. AMG!

Adam Clark - Sprint Car Racer from Down Under

Mike Skeen

John Meek

Jim Alongi - Fun Guy! But really dangerous on a bicycle

Mark Dailey

Brad Mark

 

Jerry Byrnes

Geoff Moller

Jim Brownell - very cool guy

RED RULES! A few of my new friends in Team Red

GUYS - please email me your names so I can add them to the Red Team Hall of Fame!

Team Red looks on

Team Red lining up in height order for the C55 Autocross

Team Red after the CLS55 Autocross Event

Paul - Go Kart fastest time and all around cool dude!MBWORLD handle = PAS

Todd Schaberg

 

Click here for the 2006 AMG Challenge Homestead - Day 2

 
 

 

         

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