There's a double yellow 'do not cross' line following the corner of the two-lane highway ahead of me. The Policia Federal in a Dodge Charger crosses while overtaking a slow moving truck. Two Mercedes-Benz AMGs follow the hardcore cop-spec machine with its blues and twos on, making an illegal overtake with no consequences. At that moment my fears that our 'police escort' was going to spoil our fun in the SLS dispel. Only a few minutes later they're completely shattered as I look down at the speedometer and see 140mph on the dial. With the police in front of me - in an 80km/h (50mph) zone.
I'm in Mexico. Specifically on part of the Carrera Panamericana route. Mercedes has brought us here to help celebrate its 1952 300 SL Gullwing 1-2 and the unveiling of the new SLS GT3 racer by giving us keys to the new Gullwing and a route book taking in 420km of Mexico's finest roads. Paradise? You bet, especially as with a few million quids worth of roof-hinged, three-pointed badge exotica squirting into the Mexican wilderness, Mercedes seems to have come to some sort of 'arrangement' with the local cops.
Officially the Policia Federal is here to escort us out of Oaxaca. Merc's sat nav is hopelessly stating that we're 'off-route' - as in there are no digitised maps around here. Spearing out of town presidential style with the police stopping traffic at intersections ensures ridiculous progress. Only the vicious, SLS AMG arse-scraping, driver teeth clenching Topes (speed bumps) slow the progress down. Think sleeping policemen, but ones with a limitless account at Dunkin' Donuts; these things are the Himalayas of the traffic-calming world.
But then Mexico's road planners probably aren't thinking of supercars when slowing down the locals. The traffic around here is made up of vehicles that have clearly never been near an MOT station. The bodywork of everything wears the battle-scars of heavy use, vehicles here are tools, not indulgences, making the SLS look like a preposterous extravagance situated among such abject poverty. Keeping the old local machinery rolling are endless motor factor outlets, each roadside breeze-block-built outlet seemingly specialising in single parts. There's one for belts, one for exhausts, one for bumpers, one for hubcaps - you think of it there's a poorly constructed colourful outlet for it. It's like a big, multi-outlet Halfords, only less orange and without an area for tacky stick-on LED lights. Give them time.
One SLS would stand out in Mexico, but a convoy of them, topped and tailed by Charger driving cops hell-bent on using their escort duty as an opportunity to flog every horse under their bonnets is like nothing I've ever seen before. Unsurprisingly, neither have the locals, who make a point of getting out of the way of this multi-million cannonball from Oaxaca to Puebla.
The night before our town-escaping madness I'd sat at dinner speaking to John Fitch. This 92-year old American drove an SL Roadster in the 1952 Carrera Panamericana. He's frail, though his eyes burn with the same intensity as I imagine they did when he was 34, driving what was regarded then as the world's most dangerous race. He tells me on one stage he averaged 135mph, his fear of the constant tyre blow-outs salved by the holes he'd had cut in the bodywork so his co-driver could monitor the frail rubber.
You think modern racers have balls? Think again. Guys like Fitch really underline that racing is an entirely different game today. These men were heroes, drivers who really were prepared to put absolutely everything on the line in pursuit of the glory that passing that chequered flag first represented.
That 135mph average is strong in my mind as I drive the SLS along the same roads that the original route took back in the '50s. With more than three times the power of the 300 SL that won in '52 achieving 135mph and more isn't an issue, but to maintain that kind of pace in 50's machinery over the long stages of the Carrera Panamericana is utterly incomprehensible. Fitch talked of 40-mile straights on some stages. Today I'm on nothing so long, though the road out of Oaxaca to Huajuapan isn't asking me for too much steering input.
As route 135 turns off to become route 125 the road gets more interesting. The straights become shorter, the tarmac following the contours lines around, over and down the undulating landscape. The police Charger is out of its depth now, though the cops don't mind and overtake as the roads are largely traffic free. The next 180km or so are among the best I've ever been lucky enough to have behind the wheel of a car. The SLS demonstrates the depth of the talent of the guys at AMG, managing to involve and entertain when the tarmac bucks, and switches back on itself through series of climbing hairpins and spearing down the straights with impunity.
The 6.2-litre V8's soundtrack ricochets off the valleys and resonates into the vast nothingness that makes up the backcountry that route 125 spans. The fun is punctuated by occasional villages and towns, each littered with Topes - the expensive scraping that accompanies them oddly becoming normal. There's no obvious purpose to the villages, each lined either by more automotive parts stores or endless cafes; their plentiful plastic seats never seemingly occupied. All the locals seem delighted to see us, everyone stopping and staring, grinning widely at the sight and sound of the SLS passing.
As much as the locals enjoy the sight of the SLS I'm revelling in the driving of it. The roads straighten out on the way to Puebla and the opportunity to really push the 563bhp 6.2-litre V8 harder is impossible to resist. Passing one of our escorts at 140mph I hit a limiter at 155mph, Mercedes' people obviously realising the temptation would be too great to push the SLS to its 197mph maximum. No bad thing, as when I pull over the police follow me.
It's not my details they want. Instead they give me theirs, as they want some photos sending to them. Which made a rather refreshing change from the usual way of things...
It's a crazy place Mexico, which explains the crazy race. Now I've got a few crazy memories of my own, I just hope I can make it to 92 to recount them.
Additional pics here