2023 Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series First Drive: Your Ultimate Track-Day Car

Do you like the idea of driving a GT3-class race car? Have the money but don’t have the time to get your FIA-approved racing license and commit to a season in a GT3 championship? Relax, because Mercedes-AMG has just the car for you: The 2023 Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series is perfect for unleashing your inner Mario Andretti at your local track’s next open day.

The 2023 GT Track Series pulls together hardware from the roadgoing Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series model and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and GT4 race cars to create the nearest thing to a GT World Challenge race-winning Mercedes you can drive without a competition license. Yes, it’s essentially a pick-and-mix parts bin car, but when your bin is filled with goodies like AMG’s, that’s hardly a criticism.

The mighty dry-sump, flat-plane-crank 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 is the heart of the 2023 Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series. This is the same engine that powers the awesome Black Series, but motorsport-spec fuel injectors and engine mapping boost its output by 4 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque, to 724 hp and 627 lb-ft. The engine is bolted by way of a carbon-fiber torque tube to the six-speed sequential-shift Hewland transaxle transmission used in the GT3 and GT4 race cars. The V-8 is cradled by the GT4 version’s light and extremely rigid aluminum spaceframe chassis.

Like the Black Series and the GT3 and GT4 race cars, many of the Track Series’ body panels are also carbon fiber. The hood and front fascia look very similar to those on the GT3 but are significantly different in detail; the high-downforce front splitter was developed specifically for the GT Track Series. The giant, adjustable rear wing is based on the Black Series’ but is reworked to deliver more downforce.

The multilink suspension features height-adjustable race-spec four-way Bilstein dampers featuring high- and low-speed settings in both compression and rebound. As on the GT Black Series, the front and rear camber settings and anti-roll bars are manually adjustable. But instead of the carbon-ceramic brakes used by the Black Series, the Track Series is fitted with the 15.4-inch front and 14.0-inch rear steel rotor setup used on the GT3 and GT4 race cars, complete with a balance bar to adjust front/rear brake bias.

The AMG GT Black Series rolls on 19-inch front and 20-inch rear lightweight forged aluminum wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires. The GT Track Series, however, has 18-inch forged wheels all round, like the race cars, which means it can use a wide range of racing rubber. Other technologies lifted from the Mercedes-AMG racers include the dry-break fuel filler and fuel cell, and race-spec traction control and anti-lock brake systems, each of which is independently adjustable across 12 settings, with “1” offering the most intervention and “off,” well, the least.

Here’s where things get interesting. At 3,086 pounds, the 2023 Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series weighs just 253 pounds more than the homologated base weight of the actual GT3 race car. But—and it’s a big but—FIA regulations restrict the GT3’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V-8 to about 542 hp and 480 lb-ft in baseline tune. With a third more power and 30 percent more torque than Mercedes-AMG’s front-line sports racer, the GT Track Series brings a bazooka to your track-day gunfight.

I’ve driven both the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and GT4 race cars, so the cockpit of the GT Track Series lurking in the pit garage at the legendary Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet in the south of France feels instantly familiar. The butterfly steering wheel, designed exclusively for the GT Track Series by sim-racing expert Cube Controls, is peppered with 13 buttons, the most important of which (for me) is the one that shifts the transmission to neutral, as well as the pit-lane speed limiter. Behind it is a dash with a fully programmable Bosch DDU 11 digital screen that offers two different display modes and will show lap times recorded by the integrated data-logging system.

The car’s center console hosts, among other things, the ignition switch, a push-button to select reverse, a fire extinguisher switch, and even an exterior-mirror adjustment button. Also present are the knobs that control the traction control and ABS settings.

Like the GT3 and GT4 race cars, the AMG GT Track Series is designed to accommodate drivers of all shapes and sizes. After all, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport understands many of the well-heeled gentlemen drivers who buy its track cars don’t have the snake hips and trim physiques of pro racers. Conveniently, a small lever next to the center console allows the spring-loaded pedal box to move back and forth, and the steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach.

Mercedes-AMG team pro driver Jules Gounon gives me the pre-drive briefing. A GT3 race winner at the impressive Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium and at Australia’s mesmerizing Bathurst track, Gounon is here at Paul Ricard for a specific purpose. He’s finalizing the chassis and suspension tunes before the first of the 55 GT Track Series cars being built in the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport shop in Affalterbach, Germany, are made available to customers. Why 55 cars? To celebrate the founding of AMG by Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher in 1967, 55 years ago.

Gounon explains my car is set up with the suspension on the soft side, and with mild understeer. “Journalist Mode,” in other words. There’s no such restraint under the hood, however: The engine map is set at position 3 for maximum power. Though he’s running with traction-control and ABS settings in the 8 to 10 range, Gounon advises me to keep both at 6, midway points he says will allow the car to move around a bit under power and won’t set the brake pedal juddering at every corner but will still provide a solid safety net.

That’s good by me.

We’ll be using the French Grand Prix Formula 1 track, minus the chicane halfway along the 1.1-mile Mistral Straight. Gounon’s car hits its 200-mph maximum speed before whizzing past the entry to the chicane. My car is geared slightly lower, with a top speed of 186, but that still means a long, fast, max-revs run down to Signes, the sweeping right hander that is one of the most epic corners in F1 racing.

F1 drivers take Signes flat in top (eighth) gear, a 210-mph slingshot ride. In the AMG GT Track Series, it’s a fifth-gear corner. The trick to Signes, Gounon says, is to work up to staying off the brakes until the first marker board. Brake hard, then come off the pedal smoothly and get on the throttle early, feathering it to keep the car balanced as you sweep down to Beaussett, a tricky, double-apex right hander. Sounds easy … in theory.

The flat-plane crank V-8 fires up with an angry growl. Dip the clutch, flick the right paddle. There’s a hiss-clunk as the Hewland’s pneumatic actuators ram first gear into place. Revs, then slip the clutch, more revs. The Track Series clanks and bangs and whines and whirrs down pit lane, a caged beast waiting to be unleashed. Gounon leads me around for a couple of laps before heading into the pits for fresh tires and restarting his test program.

As in the GT Black Series, the engine stampedes to 7,000 rpm with a menacing metallic edge to the wall of sound filling the cockpit. The gearbox bangs off clutchless upshifts with such rapidity, there’s scarcely a pause in the searing acceleration. The steel brakes feel utterly unquenchable, hauling the Mercedes down with calm authority. No matter how hard I hit the pedal, I can modulate the pressure easily and keep away from the ABS threshold. Fanning the left paddle produces rapid-fire downshifts like a short burst from a machine gun.

It’s clear after only a couple laps that the 2023 Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series absolutely nails its mission of being a thrill ride for good drivers who want a professionally developed track car but who don’t want to spend the time and money on a racing program. It’s seriously fast and quick—more than enough to have you fully engaged behind the wheel—but also benign enough not to scare you silly as you approach either your limit or the car’s.

In its relatively soft setup, the GT Track Series telegraphs its punches with such clarity that even a non-race driver without experience on slick tires can easily sense what’s going on where the rubber meets the road, at both ends. Trail braking into the tighter corners keeps the front end loaded so the slicks can bite and get you into the apex. And I can feel the weight transfer to the rear axle as I go to power, the back end hunkering down as the car punches out of the corner.

Signes? Yeah, it’s intimidating at first, but I did what Gounon told me and trusted the car to do the rest. It worked, and I had more trouble trying to get through the double-apex right immediately afterward. It wasn’t the fast fourth-gear first apex that was the problem; it was trying to get the car turned for the tighter second. Gounon told me afterward he downshifts to third between the two to get the front end to bite harder and uses the power to get the car to rotate.

Compared with the stiffly suspended GT3 race car, which generates more than twice the aerodynamic grip at 125 mph, the AMG GT Track Series rolls more and is much more pitch sensitive. The car’s attitude under braking and during cornering and acceleration, and how it affects the load on each tire, determines its balance and grip levels. Understanding this is key to unlocking a good lap time.

It’s also what makes the Track Series a hugely involving driver’s car. The same dynamic dance occurs in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, but the transitions are all so much quicker, so much more intense, that unless you’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel of one it’s difficult to detect when you’re at the edge of the envelope. Other than in fast corners the Track Series is as quick as the GT3, but the easily deciphered dialog between tire and tarmac makes its limits much more approachable. You can feel what’s going on and adjust your inputs accordingly.

At the equivalent of about $385,000 plus taxes, the 2023 Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series isn’t cheap. It’s a staggering 43 percent more expensive than a GT4 race car, and just 7.5 percent cheaper than a GT3. But customers are buying a car backed by the same service and technical support given to owners of the race cars, including detailed technical training, race-engineer support, and spare parts supply. And put plainly, the Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series is a seriously fast, seriously capable machine. How capable? Just before the end of our afternoon at Circuit Paul Ricard, Gounon strapped on a fresh set of tires and ran a lap quicker than his best time in the GT3 race car.

That’s track-day bragging rights, right there, with more than a little extra sprinkled on top.

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