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I smile, knowing that he hadn’t had his coffee at the time. He was probably still sleeping. We complete the next event on a wet skidpad, which turns out to be as much a self-awareness exercise as driver safety training. Our group gathers to watch how the other drivers try to maneuver their AMG GT S as it drifts around the course. It seems like there’s nothing that can bring people together like a dancing, howling Mercedes-AMG. And there’s nothing better than newly minted friendships to calm the nerves more effectively before the real main event of the day. Because now it’s time to take our AMG armada out onto the track. The Thermal Club just opened its North Palm Circuit a few days prior, and we’re running the combined North and South tracks — new terrain for everyone. And an entirely new car to boot, since we are testing the Mercedes-AMG GT S a full month before Mercedes has even finalized its pricing. A priceless supercar, as it were. A very, very fast, priceless supercar. Under your helmet the staccato of the biturbocharged V8 rattles the insides of your skull. AMG states that “only” 4.0 liters of displacement are humming away under the hood, but it sounds like double that — and feels like it too. The pull is unrelenting. On the South Palm’s 762-meter-long straight, the speedometer needle climbs with furious speed. The thin desert air offers no significant resistance to the powerful thrust of the V8: 223 km/h, then 224 km/h, and finally 225 before I need to stand on the carbon-ceramic brakes. The immensely stable GT hauls itself down doing an ABS dance barely visible from the outside, with its tires locking up in a rhythmic cycle of slip and release. I slow just in time to trail-brake into the long, exceedingly late-apex downhill left. Here the pavement falls away steeply and the front axle goes light. If you allow the V8 to take a short break, you’ll be pushed wide past the apex. But I propel the Mercedes-AMG GT S with just enough power and drift into the middle of the track, optimally prepared for the right-hand curve that connects the two tracks. The first turn on the North Palm Circuit is another left-hand turn, a test of the driver’s nerves and the tires’ grip. An unbanked, 180-degree corner that sends you from eastbound to northbound to westbound and straight into the afternoon sun. The video from yesterday evening in which the Mercedes-AMG GT S slid luridly around a long corner was shot here – and the skid marks are still visible. Black as night. Tobias Moers himself drove for these video shoots. He said he did it just for fun. Nothing went wrong. The black marks trace a smooth line around the track, nearing the edge only at the corner’s exit. I ask myself how fast Moers must have been going. I look down and see that the AMG GT S manages 118 km/h around this big, long left-hander, all four tires audibly pushed to their limit. Driving sideways is almost never faster — but I suspect Moers had his fun. At the end of this carousel is a very sudden drop, then a blind crest and the final corner, which brings you back to South Palm Circuit. It’s bumpy and fast and therefore exciting too — until I see the checkered flag, happy and ready for the promising conclusion to the day: the ride into the mountains. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the fastest way to reach the San Jacinto – in just twelve-and-a-half minutes you ascend 1,790 meters. Driving up there in a Mercedes-AMG makes it infinitely more spectacular. Admittedly, we’re not setting any speed records today, but the scenery only gets more breathtaking the higher you climb above Palm Springs. And as if it were planned that way, the sun sets in a true explosion of colors at precisely the moment we crest the last peak. Then we head back toward the city. It’s already dark when we pull up to the hotel, but the driveway seems to be illuminated by the wide smiles on our faces. We are looking forward to the upcoming dinner, where we can reminisce about all of the day’s experiences. Ultimately, it’s the shared experiences of this kind of AMG Private Lounge event that forge friendships. The hearty laughter at the dinner table might be even louder than the rumble from the back of the Mercedes-AMG GT. Unlike at the start of the day, I’m no longer a stranger. I’m now among friends. T 11


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