A love and fervor for cars does come with some unfortunate realities. For starters, most of us will never be able to afford a supercar. Even if you happen to have pockets deep enough to put a Lamborghini, Ferrari or McLaren in your garage, there is still the frustration with not being able to push the car to its limits. In the real world of everyday driving, my turbocharged hot hatch is just as fast as any Huracan, 458 or 720S.
But for those living in or around the Atlanta metro, Atlanta Motorsports Park serves as the Zoloft to ward off the supercar woes.
High on a perch overlooking the Appalachian foothills in Dawsonville, Georgia, AMP serves as a country club for drivers. There are all the amenities and comforts of a traditional country club sprawling over 153-acres, but members don racing suits instead of primary colored trousers and have a hell of a lot more fun than shanking a sand wedge.
The main attraction of AMP is its 2-mile track which tests even the most cocksure drivers with its technical layout.
AMP’s Will Rigdon showed me the layout of the course, featuring over 100-feet of elevation changes, tight hairpins, sweeping carousels, blind crests and a flat-out straight.
After building up speed on the straight, the floor seems to suddenly give out as you are propelled downward to a hairpin turn 1. Speed is then regained in the esses of turns 2 and 3 before you are propelled into the fourth turn, an homage to the “Carroussel” at the Nurburgring Nordschleife course.
I’m glad I had Rigdon on board to show me the correct line on turn 6, because upon my first entry I had the driving equivalent of a brain-fart trying to discern the racing line through the uphill corner. Even with him showing me the way and our BMW 3-Series barely approaching highway speeds, I got it wrong every time.
The sweeping elevation changes continue through turns 7-11, with tight left and right corners requiring pinpoint precision to maintain speed and hold the proper racing line. Or in my case, attempt to hold the proper racing line.
The course then climbs to a crest for turn 12, a sharp right over the summit into a downhill left, a less dramatic but still difficult and fun homage to the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.
After turn 12 jolts the contents of your stomach, the half-digested burger affixes itself to the right side of your gut for turns 13-15. While this left-handed sweep is considered three turns, it certainly just feels like one long, half-mile pull. At least to the uninitiated like myself.
After exiting turn 15, the gas is mashed to the floor for the slight incline and slight right-hander of turn 16 onto the straight where you hit top speed before diving down again for turn 1.
I was still missing apexes at parade-lap speeds, so I was unsurprised when Rigdon told me that some of AMP’s members are professional drivers and hone their skills on the technical course.
While Rigdon was well aware that letting me go full bore on the track would have ended with me digging up sand in a runoff area, I was able to put the proverbial hammer down on AMP’s karting track.
The 0.85-mile course is one of the only CIK Level A/F1 Standard tracks in the U.S.
Don’t worry, I’m not really sure what that means either, but I can tell you the course is anything but what you’d expect when you hear “karting track.”
The layout features 43-feet of elevation change, two downhill hairpins, fast esses and long uphill and downhill straights. And for such a course, the karts are far more thrilling to drive than your tourist spot burblers. Even though I nearly doubled the weight of the kart when I sat down, I was capable of reaching 55 MPH, which feels a hell of a lot faster when your backside is nearly scraping the pavement.
I had already experienced karting at AMP — the track is open to the public most days of the week — but Will said he would show me a different way around the course, and he probably later regretted doing so.
After a long climb from the start/finish straight, you crest the hill and quickly descend into a hairpin before climbing up the peak again just after the apex, one of just three braking corners on the course.
When I first entered the descent in turn 2 a few years ago, I mashed the brake before the kart had settled, sending me into a slide and barreling into the grass before an embarrassingly slow ascent up the hill.
Will showed me what he calls the “cheater’s line” which is to go beyond the rumble strips and nearly kiss the outside wall to scrub as little speed as possible for the upward hike into turn 3.
This worked well for me. So well, I beat Will’s fastest time by two-tenths of a second. Being professional, I dismissed it as merely a reflection of him showing me the proper line instead of what I wanted to do, which was let out my extremely competitive side and dump victory champagne over his head even though I quite liked the guy.
In addition to their two tracks, AMP also features a skid pad. The downward slope, slippery surface and wet pavement is meant to instruct you on how to control an out of control car, whether upset by rain or ice.
I know it’s meant to be a teaching tool, but I waived the teaching moment and instead used it to see how many soggy doughnuts I could complete with a single turn of the wheel.
For those who actually desire to improve their driving skills instead of spinning around and grinning like an insane person, AMP offers a number of courses to hone your prowess on the road.
For $295, the teen driving school pairs those with newly-minted licenses to a professional driving instructor. Teens are taken to the skid pad and ice hill to learn car control, and are instructed on evasive and defensive driving techniques not covered in standard driver education courses.
Those looking to sharpen their racing skills can sign up for AMP’s Primal Racing School. The course puts drivers behind the wheel of Radical Sportscars track-day ready offerings for either one or three-day schools alongside professional instructors.
There are also kart racing schools for either adults or young ones getting their first taste of speed.
But just like a traditional country club has more than a golf course and a few tennis courts, AMP’s experience goes beyond the action on the tracks.
Members can house their cars at the track by renting space in the heated, cooled and insulated garages. Some have decked out theirs with living spaces that put most apartments to shame. Will said some have even added bedding. And why not. I can’t think of a better way to wake up than by immediately jumping into a powerful car and traversing AMP’s course.
Kart garages can also be rented with on-site mechanics providing assistance when needed. You can also opt for the concierge service which includes the addition of fuel, lubrication of chains, nuts and bolts, and a cleaning and inspection each time you store your ride.
A 20,000-square foot conference center is also on site with a fitness room, bar, and meeting rooms.
Members can also relax in the well-appointed lounge areas, including those in the newly-constructed facility along the kart track that includes iRacing simulators and meeting rooms.
There is also a wine and humidor room when the day’s driving is done.
While AMP may alleviate the unfortunate reality of not being able to drive your supercar full tilt, there is the harsh realization that those who earn chicken feed paychecks like me will likely not be a member anytime soon.
For a car or motorcycle, the lowest of the four membership comes with a $10,000 initiation fee, monthly dues and daily-use fees for up to 60-days use annually. Going up in the scale from “Tungsten” to platinum or titanium membership increases the allowable days you can use the AMP facilities, and comes with a heftier initiation fee but lower monthly and daily dues. There are also lifetime memberships.
As expected, a karting membership won’t dig as deeply into your pockets with a $2,500 initiation fee with monthly and daily fees. For those karting with family or kids, a discount is applied to family members.
While these price points are certainly outside of the range of anyone who doesn’t have a thick wallet and an extreme passion for driving, AMP still offers what you can find nowhere else — a chance to take your own car to the limit on a technical and enjoyable track pretty much whenever the fancy takes you, and being able to enjoy country club amenities when you’re looking to relax after the adrenaline rush. Of course, traditional country clubs aren’t exactly on the affordable side either, and I’d rather embarrass myself on a race track than a par 5 any day.
So if you have the dough and the passion, look into the hidden gem that is AMP in Dawsonville. And speaking of money, can I have some for my initiation fee?