Mercedes-AMG offers exclusive Albert Park grand experience
NOWHERE else in the world can you have this Formula 1 experience.
Hurtling down the straight at more than 200kmh it transforms the traditionally tranquil Albert Park in Melbourne's heart into a high-octane haven.
Sitting alongside racing instructors we were given no speed restrictions, but there was one warning: Get off the bitumen and onto the grass and you will not stop until you hit something.
Yet there is never a shortage of keen drivers for this exclusive outing - no other F1 track allows an event such as this.
Getting a seat to the Mercedes-Benz Festival of AMG Albert Park Challenge takes less skill than earning a F1 drive, but you need just as much luck.
The 90 spots (which cost $1100 each to this year's event) sold within 52 seconds.
Invitations are sent to Benz's best customers and members of the AMG Club. A fraternity which is growing rapidly.
Last year saw about 10% of all Mercedes vehicles sold in Australia wear an AMG badge - one of the highest market uptakes in the world. Even well-heeled Aussies like their rides with some poke.
Options to join Festival of AMG events, which include experiences on the snow in New Zealand and cutting laps at Phillip Island, are part of the sporting three-pointed star package.
"They are actively learning.
"The cars are now extraordinary. Any of the small flaws that before were exaggerated by inefficient ESP systems or aggressive ABS, instead now you have a subtle interaction.
"The systems are working more efficiently and less intrusive so the drivers look better and the cars are going smoother and faster."
Among those cars helping make punters look more like Louis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg are the pint-size pairing of the A45 and CLA45.
Both powered by a savage four-cylinder turbo powerplant, their sub-$100,000 price-tag opens the AMG door to more households than ever before.
Cornering at well over 100kmh and able to cope with heavy braking, the stroppy little AMG pairing proved nothing short of outstanding. Barking and growling with a wonderful exhaust soundtrack they offer brilliant grip via all-wheel drive.
It's simple to see why the Melbourne street circuit is loved by F1 drivers.
Fast and flowing, no wonder the professionals spend more than 60% of the lap on full noise. Even the intricate turns 14 and 15 enable you carry some serious speed.
With the small AMGs you can leave braking late, and the anchors are especially strong on the CLA and you can feel the cars wiggle and shimmy when you're hard on the picks.
No matter which sporting Mercedes you choose for the drive it's an unforgettable journey.
Perhaps it could only be topped by tackling the holy grail of Australian race tracks … Bathurst. Oh yeah, you can do that too in July when they launch the new C63.
One suspects they'll beat their own 52-second booking record.
Where: Albert Park, Melbourne.
First grand prix: 1996
Circuit length: 5.303 km
Grand prix lap record: 1:24.125 - M Schumacher (2004)