I am, of course, passionate about my role as President of Wempe USA. And, business in the watch world takes me all over the globe where I have some fascinating experiences. But, I also have a strong passion for motorsports.
Recently I joined some friends at the Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy Winter Sporting Advanced Weekend Competition in Arjeplog, Sweden. And let me tell you, I still have a big smile on my face: Over 70 pristine, gleaming AMG models ready to challenge your skills and reflexes; 7,000 square meters of frozen Swedish lake bed, plowed and sculpted into 12 different courses that mimic some of the world’s most challenging race tracks; accommodations at the luxurious yet cozy AMG Lodge with outstanding cuisine. I have been to this academy twice before, but this recent visit was my most memorable.
The program is a combination of training and instruction with expert drivers and hot laps that build to a final competition between you and the other guests. Perhaps my earlier visits gave me something of an edge, but this year I came in third! It was a great boost to my competitive spirit, but, honestly, fun and camaraderie are really the most important aspects of this destination.
Since the tracks are plowed and sculpted on a clear lake bed, your only penalty for spinning out or overshooting the course is a trip through fluffy 2-foot snowbanks. No dings, no dents, no consequences. They do give you a “punch card” and log when you make a misstep, but only to determine if you are having a little too much fun spinning out. If you fly too far off the circuit, a fleet of AMG G-Wagons are on call to tow you out and back into the race. Also, since the suns sets pretty early in Sweden in the winter, you are doing most of this in dark! It is a real opportunity to hone your skills, push your limits, and hoot with pleasure the whole way; you can do things in a car in this situation you would never dream of in the real world and score some real style points. I crossed the finish line basically going sideways!
And, what cars you have on offer: The race fleet includes the 500hp Mercedes-AMG GTS (a two-wheel-drive powerhouse that is a challenge on the ice); the 600hp Mercedes-AMG GT 63 (which has all-wheel-drive); and the “rally-style” all-wheel-drive A45 AMG (this is the car that got me into third place). These are all stock AMG models (although a “stock” AMG is always something special), with the only concession to the track environment being snow tires with 3mm studs. There is also a tricked-out ice racer with 7mm studs dubbed the “AMG Ice Taxi.” Of course, traction control is turned off for these races.
I have to admit that, as a watch aficionado, I put some thought into the timepieces I wore while racing. Given the icy environs, my companions on the track were Rolex’s GMT-Master II “Batman” model, and my own company’s Wempe Zeitmeister Chronograph with a blue dial. They served me well, and anyone interested would also be well-served to visit the tour operator’s website for more information and details, amg-experiences.com. The academy runs several different programs for speed fans of all levels from January to March. AMG always puts on a great show! wempe.com