A different (Mercedes Benz) World…

The other week I was invited by the Mercedes Benz Vito Sport team to head out of the valley and to come and have a mooch about Mercedes Benz World and have a look at what they’re doing with their Vito Sport van. Now, unsurprisingly for a bike geek, I like my cars and the effort-free thrills of petrol quite a lot and I’ve prolonged the life (or hastened the demise) of a couple of rear-drive ‘modern classics’ in the name of hammering along B-roads to go riding.

McLaren Mercedes F1 car. Quite light, quite expensive.

Given the chance to take a look at some of the classic cars from the three-pointed star, both old and new, as well as the fact that they’re based in Brooklands, the birthplace of motor racing in Britain, and have a track there meant I’d jumped into my current, sensible and only slightly turbocharged warm hatch at 6 in the morning to see if they’d let me anywhere near something with a V8 in it, or failing that the sensible but hot V6 engined 204bhp Vito Sport X van.

F1 bling...

Of course, as you’d expect, there was an ulterior motive – unless you’ve been living under a rock you might have noticed that car giant is taking an interest in our sport. They’ve been co-sponsoring numerous events including the Ritchey Bristol Bike Fest, CRC MTB Marathon series and they also support a load of pro riders with the aforementioned Vito Sport van.

A lot of bike riders...

The list of riders present was also pretty comprehensive – trials legend Martyn Ashton, dirt jumper Sam Pilgrim, CRC/Nuke Proof downhill team Joe Smith, Nige Page and Matt Simmonds, Steve Peat, the full trio of Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton, cross country racer Oli Beckinsdale and quite a few more. It’s a pretty broad spectrum of riders and the Vito Sport team thought it’d be a nice excuse to get all these people together. The opportunity to try and out do each other at a different form of sport might have been a bit of a reason why a good proportion of Britain’s riding talent were all stood about a racing circuit on a Wednesday morning too.

Vito Sport X van - massive, practical and with the V6, scarily fast.

If you’re not interested in cars and you’re still reading then I suggest you give up here. Sat amongst past and present Mercedes F1 cars there were petrolhead classics including the 300SL gullwing, the 600 Pullman limosine (as owned by Idi Amin, Nicolae Ceau┼čescu, Leonid Brezhnev, Rowan Atkinson and Jeremy Clarkson), stand-out models from the MB range over the years and various bits of modern AMG engined exotica that would take me a lifetime’s earnings to afford (SLS AMG anyone?). However good the life of a bike journo is, I’m still quite envious of people who get to hoon around in cars for work.

The 600 Pullman limo - as owned by Idi Amin and Jeremy Clarkson

Although I didn’t get to throw some expensive metal into some relatively cheap Armco barrier, I was given a demonstration of what the cooking version of the 6.2L naturally aspirated V8 AMG E63 saloon can do in the right hands, despite producing a girly 451bhp rather than the more fitting 518bhp version of the engine you get with the Performance Pack.

A thing of beauty - no, not Sam Pilgrim, the 300SL Gullwing

I managed to come out with some vaguely fitting statements – “quite…meaty.. isn’t it?” “pulls well” “it’s quite… ..fast..isn’t it?” – but I fear that I failed to deliver the Clarkson-esque superlatives – and I think my other half will get annoyed when I try to practise them on the way to the shops. Even so, watching a massive V8 rev to nigh on 7,000rpm, hitting the ton in not that much distance while sat on leather seats that make my sofa at home feel inadequate is quite a special experience – and one I doubt I’ll have again, unless the bottom falls out of the used car market sometime soon.

Jon: "goes quite sideways, doesn't it?"

Of course, the more trustworthy mountain biking glitterati did get a spin and it turns out that pro riders are also pretty handy (and also hyper competitive) behind the wheel a car as well as on a bike. Steve Peat taking top honours in the drifting and circuit driving competition, much to the annoyance of Gee Atherton, young gun Joe Smith of the CRC Nuke Proof taking second place – so if he ever offers you an uplift, think about refusing.


Steve Peat, Joe Smith and Rachel Atherton - also handy behind the wheel of a car

Anyway, I’m off to start saving for my own three pointed star – and seeing as every car I’ve owned has cost less than the bike that’s been put in the boot, the practical option of the Vito Sport van is out of reach and the less practical but much faster AMG Estate is also a smidgen further out of my price range – it’s going to have to be another modern classic – the Cosworth tweaked AMG 190E 2.5 Evolution II.

Yes, there’s no space for bikes, but it does have a great big wing on the back.

Practicality be damned, this one has a great big spoiler on the back.

If you’d like to see more about Mercedes-Benz World then head HERE and if you don’t agree with me that an early 1990s DTM racing homologation special is a good choice for the practical cyclist then you can take a look at the Vito Sport range HERE. They do ones without great big V6 engines too…