Video: Voyage of discovery at wheel of a Mercedes powerhouse
On the track - Ascari circuit: Mercedes C-Class Coupe AMG C63 S,
It had been a long day. I had endured a frustrating battle with technical gremlins in preparing last Wednesday's supplement.
A kind Mercedes man had offered token bottles of water. They failed to quench my frustration. I left to drive the new Mercedes C-Class Coupe AMG C63 S (V8, 510bhp, 0-100kmh in 3.9 secs, €118,000) around the Ascari track, near Malaga.
Twenty minutes later (I think) I came back into the pits. The nice man was there. "Feeling better now?" he smiled, deducing from my altered demeanour that I had vented my exasperation in the thrill of the chase. In truth I'd done more than that.
It had been a mesmerising confrontation of frustration, terror, delight, thrill and scariness in a time-bomb of propulsion. In 30 seconds I became oblivious to everything around me except the roar of the engine, the pace of the car and the white knuckles on the steering wheel. I noticed the latter a lot as I strove to keep up with a lead car that on a couple of occasions looked like it was leaving me and the driver behind me.
I felt utterly pushed in my scamper around the extraordinary track. I hadn't felt that for a long time.
I would have given anything to have had another hour. I was only getting to know the lie of its cambered loops, fast straights, wonderful chicanes and elbow-tight corners. I didn't do myself justice but the car did, keeping me on the tarmac when I braked too late or swung too wide. Nothing clears your head of unimportant nonsense as quickly as the realisation you might be about to go off track at 180kmh.
When you don't; when you somehow manage to wrest vital centimetres back thanks to the intervention of St Jude and the engineering ingenuity under your bottom, you realise you've lived on the edge for unforgettable seconds. You lift yourself, you focus better; you become clinically braver. And you realise there are far, far better drivers ahead of you. But that's okay too. The sound and fury of that AMG beast, the sense of being so lucky to drive it, the humility to recognise the stunning engineering achievement. It all came together for those 15 - 20 minutes (time stood still I felt) and I was part of, and free in, another world. Fast cars on fast tracks in 24-degree November heat can certainly change your perspective.