The Journal travels to Monterey, California to experience the AMG Driving Academy at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and takes the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” along for the ride.
Classroom instructions led by Chief Driving Instructor AJ Alsup
Mercedes AMG cars
Welcome to California
Outside the town of Monterey, nestled in the weather-beaten hills of California, lies WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca — an icon of motor racing. The course opened in 1957, and the corkscrew at turn eight is still considered one of the most challenging turns in motorsports — viewed with equal parts respect and exhilaration.
This storied track hosts some of the premier motorsport events in the US, like the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. It can seem hard to imagine mere mortals taking on the 2.24-mile, 11-turn track. But for a handful of days a year, you can take to the circuit under the watchful and wise coaching of the instructors at the AMG Driving Academy.
Learning from the best
The AMG Driving Academy is an almost circus-like troupe that crisscrosses the country to and fro iconic raceways with a fleet of the newest, most powerful Mercedes cars in tow. With world-class instructors and some of the most advanced machinery, the AMG Driving Academy lets you get behind the wheel and take a spin around tracks like Laguna Seca.
Open to anyone — not just AMG owners — you can join the AMG team of high-performance instructors for a series of training sessions from basic Performance driving to the much more rigorous Pro+ level. The 90 or so students at the Performance Driving class in October had flown in from far and wide — and many were proud Mercedes drivers. Working with eight instructors, the students were taught the basics and were given a chance to take to the track.
Mercedes AMG in motion on the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Checking Tire Pressure
It’s a family affair
The Academy class starts early in the morning with a light breakfast and classroom instructions. This is led by the man who keeps all the cars racing and the whole circus in shape, AJ Alsup.
As the Chief Driving Instructor, Alsup has racing in his blood, having grown up with an Indycar racing father before he got behind the wheel for NASCAR. Now, he makes sure that every aspect of wheel time at the AMG Driving Academy goes off without a hitch and leads the classroom instruction portions of the day.
From the classroom to the track
Splitting up into groups, the students start a series of driving exercises and track time. Driving AMG CLA45 Coupes and AMG GT Rs, they’re put through a slalom course, braking exercises, and even wet weather spinouts. But it wasn’t all screeching tires. There is a lot more to executing a perfectly timed lap than luck and speed. Geometry comes into play. At every turn — both literally and figuratively — the AMG instructors are reminding students of the ever-important apex.
This line racing method is simply finding the optimal path around the track by hitting the inside edge of every turn. With plugged-in headset radios, you make your way around the famous track, slowly opening up the purring AMG engines, feeling the track below. When the day of classes concludes, you will be a more precise driver with an understanding of the geometry of motorsport, and enter into the exceedingly small ranks of those who have gone around the famous Laguna Seca.
Authorized Bay Area California IWC retailers
CH Premier (San Jose)
2855 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Valley Fair Mall, Suite 1251
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Davidson & Licht (Walnut Creek)
1329 North Main Street
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
117 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 9410
329 Stanford Shopping Center
Palo Alto, CA 94304
845 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Mercedes AMG GT R in Solarbeam Yellow
Fleet of mercedes amg cars at the driving academy
Instruction in action
Mercedes AMG GT R in Green hell Magno
Driving exercises in action
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Browse Our Timepieces
Selected for you
Cruising in the Copper State
IWC follows a group of car lovers during the Mercedes 300 SL Classic Rally in Arizona. Read about this four-day adventure through the American West here.
80 Years Flight to New York
Celebrate the 80th anniversary Saint Exupéry’s transatlantic crossing with a special Pilot’s Watch & coffee table book here.
Time Flies: The history of IWC Pilot’s Watches
IWC Museum Curator David Seyffer joins Justin Hast to uncover the long history of IWC Pilot’s Watches