While checking my emails one mundane Monday morning last month I opened an email from Mercedes-Benz’s friendly PR people asking if I’d like to attend the media day of their AMG road-show. They would have the full line-up of the three-pointed stars AMG models for us to drive at the Yas Marina Circuit. The thing is, my schedule is a bit crazy at the moment and I’ve driven everything in the AMG line-up pretty extensively. So other than reacquainting myself with their excellent cars and having a bit of a jolly on a racetrack, there wasn’t much point in me making the trip up to Abu Dhabi.
Before politely declining the invitation, I noticed that part of the program would involve a taxi ride in the drool inducing SLS GT3 racing car with F1 safety car driver Bernd Maylander behind the wheel. ‘That’s pretty interesting’ I thought, ‘wouldn’t it make for a great feature if they let me drive that instead?’ Slightly cheeky I know, but hey – you don’t ask, you don’t get. A few phone calls back and forth with said lovely Mercedes PR personnel and to my delight the idea was given the green light. Result! Mercedes’ only stipulation was that I would have to wait till the last day of their week-long event just in case I had, erm, an unfortunate incident that might put the car out of action before they completed their activities. Fine by me.
Fast forward to today and I’m standing in the spotless race garages at Yas with not one but two motorsports greats. The first and most obvious is the utterly gorgeous SLS race car I will be driving, up on its air jacks with the Mercedes mechanics feverishly preparing it for the day’s running. The second is multiple DTM champion Bernd Schneider, who has been flown out to guide me through my first experience of the SLS GT3. Seeing as he was the man behind the development of both the road car and race car, I feel really privileged to have him here.
I’m introduced to Bernd as the hack who’s going to be driving the car today and after pleasantries are exchanged we wander over to the car. At first sight, it’s clearly an SLS, only meaner-looking. The body sits 18mm lower, it’s 50mm wider than the stock version, and it has been de-domesticated with all manner of racing modifications. There are vents and slats and strakes and spoilers everywhere—all for function, not frivolity.