WATCH | Track driving in a Merc AMG: How an advanced driving course can enhance your skill

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• The AMG Driving Academy (ADA) offers a range of advanced driving courses.

• Wheels24 took up the Pro Training in a Mercedes-AMG GT S.

• The head of ADA, Clint Weston, shares insights into what goes into the various programs.

For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24

South Africans can drive. Well, that's the conclusion we tend to make when we engage with our countrymen and -women on this point. Often people will rave about their skill behind the wheel, while others exaggerate a situation or scenario to increase their believed perception in the communication setting.

Whichever side of the fence you're on, no driver is perfect, and no one can prepare for the challenging conditions South African roads can conjure. Every day South Africans are confronted with a myriad of challenges that either put their lives in danger or have them gasp for breath as they realise what sure-fire disaster they just avoided.

While one can't prepare for the type of drama on our roads, the AMG Driving Academy, known as Mercedes-Benz Dynamic Driving up until 2014, has several programs to prepare drivers. ADA, as they're commonly known, offers four programs for customers, starting with basic driver training and gradually advancing to levels three and four where you are seated in a Mercedes-AMG GT S and GT R Pro, respectively.

Says Clint Weston, head of ADA: "ADA is about advanced driving skills, but it has broadened to incorporate performance driving, events, new vehicle launches, and fleet management. But the core focus remains the advanced driving skills."

Watch more of Tyrone Paulsen's videos on his YouTube channel here.

Weston is responsible for levels three and four of the programs offered by ADA, his fleet including two GT S models and one GT R Pro. Each of the two cars has different characteristics, with Weston and his team introducing customers to each as their training progresses. If trainees need more time on levels one and two to build confidence or get vehicle control under the knee before advancing, so be it. The training is not a sprint race, and the ADA treats each individual customer as such.

Before venturing out on track with the GT S, Weston and Adrian Burford from Stigworx, a company specialising in driver training services that include high-tech racetrack coaching, briefed me on what to expect and how the gathered data can be used to improve lap times. Though these details are primarily used to improve one's performance on the track, it also helps you understand your vehicle better and extract the best possible performance from it.

Heading out on track, the GT S' V8 engine burbled with excitement as we made our way around Zwartkops Raceway. At first, we take on a slow pace as Weston, comfortable in the passenger seat, guide me around the track, pinpointing braking points, turn-in points, where to accelerate, and how much steering angle is needed for each corner. Soon, with each passing lap, the pace quickens, and the lap times become faster.

Back with Burford, the telemetry from each session shows the lap times and the ideal lap time if the 'perfect lap' is strung together.

"This is level 3, Pro Training," Weston says at the end of our session. "What you experienced today is a whole new phase to levels one and two, and that's sports car, telemetry, track orientation, technical, and going fast."

Recapping the experience

After a few hours driving one of the AMG V8 sports cars around the track, you come to realise the importance of not just understanding your vehicle, but also controlling it in challenging conditions. Whether a hatchback or a fire-breathing sports car, knowing what to do in trying road conditions can go a long way in ensuring not just your safety but that of other road users, too.

We tend to believe in our own capabilities when slotting into the driver's seat, but without proper training, we can't be as good as we could be. It is in such instances that advanced driver training comes into play.

Weston concludes: "Everyone is welcome to contact ADA for an advanced driving course experience, as long as you have a valid driving licence. The thing is, nothing is preparing you for the road; the K53 does not do that. An advanced driving course will advance your levels. You'll be so much more confident; you'll understand what the vehicle is driving is all about, and, obviously, you enhance your own abilities behind the wheel. It's all about mindset, anticipation, predict, decide, execute."

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