Leicestershire Loop – 100 miles / 3 hours

The background

I know the roads in Leicestershire pretty well because over the last 5+ years of Caterham ownership I’ve driven most of them at some point.

But rarely do I string them together into a formal route, I normally just go out for a drive. But Andrew my next door neighbour talked to me about doing what is called the “Midlands Tick”, in effect a route that is online presented on quite a few “best driving roads in the UK” style web sites.

The reason its called the Midlands Tick is because it is shaped the way a left-handed person would draw a tick mark, and its a route that starts in Bingham (east side of Nottingham) and goes down to the outskirts of Market Harborough (pretty much due South), then back up to conclude in Uppingham (a bit North East).

The two really good parts of this are the bit near Tilton on the Hill (between A46 and A47 cross country) and the Harborough to Uppingham stretch. Both road sections are fantastic.

But the Midlands Tick misses out on other seriously good roads and you can string it all together in a circuit. So I did. Using myroute-app again of course!

Now I live in a village called Barrow upon Soar, and that is the start and end of our route, but this bit can be skipped if you fancy an attempt at the route. Just drive to the nearest start point of the circuit and then go around. I personally prefer this route in an anti-clockwise direction.

I jumped out of my car for a quick call of nature and took one photo last weekend on this route. This is it:

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The route map – The “Leicestershire Loop”

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We stopped for lunch at The Chequers in Belvoir, which is really close to Belvoir Castle, and a fine place for a day out full stop. The Chequers has great food and service and is a very pleasant place to relax in a log fire, Sunday lunch kind of way.

North York Moors Weekend

The Itinerary

The next big test of man and machine together came in the form of a boys weekend in Yorkshire. The loose idea was to drive somewhere with interesting roads nearby, with time for a fun drive and lunch on the way to the destination. Then stay overnight and enjoy pie and a few pints, and then following morning have a spectacular blat with a nice lunch before heading home. Its a format thats worked well since the Romans and their chariots.

So we settled on the North Yorkshire Moors as our target area, The Inn at Hawnsby as our overnight stay, a route planned a week or two in advance to grab lunch on day 1 at the highest point in the Moors at The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge.

Day 2 we looped around the Moors and had lunch at Trenchers of Whitby . Either that or The Magpie are renowned and lovely.

The Technology in use

After years of fiddling with Sat Nav devices like TomTom and Garmin, more recently I have switched completely over to smart phone software. Specifically an amazing app (available across device platform) called “Waze”

It is brilliant, free, works the world over, provides traffic updates via upload data feed live from its users and is a world class app. Originally developed by two Polish brothers, Google acquired Waze a few years back and its continued to be amazing. But its online, doesn’t store maps (with the exception of a temp download of the route to destination you request). Waze is for every day driving.

There is another app that is equally amazing but for a completely different reason. It does offline maps AND it accepts itinerary files. It’s called “Sygic”

Which would be OK if you could build routes easily (for example on a PC or Mac using Google map overlays) and the simply send to the sat nav app  without needing to be an astrophysicist?

And that’s where My-RouteAPP comes in. And this is REALLY clever. For those that are in the know, this is the updated and overhauled Tyre app which was originally aimed at the motorbike touring market.

MyRouteAPP is a web application, that allows you to build routes from web map services, and export them into any format. It comes with a companion app for your iOS or Android phone. This app shows the routes that you have created online in your myrouteapp web account on a big computer screen and with two finger presses can send these routes to Sygic. It opens Sygic automatically, presents the route and I normally save this as a favourite in Sygic.

You then simply use Sygic with this route. This workflow is so simple it’s genius, and other friends that I blat with also use this method. We have a group in MyRouteAPP (where the magic happens) and if any of us build a route worthy of sharing, we can send it to our blat group, the others can pick it up and use it.

The companion app to MyRouteAPP (the software on your smart phone) can also act as a route recorder. Simply go out and drive, and it logs where you have been for route conversion later back to your group.

Here is a screen shot of our group route for the NY Moors weekend:

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It was a great driving weekend and some of the roads were very special. The challenge with this part of the country is that there aren’t many road options across and around the Moors. Which means that there is more traffic than is ideal to really enjoy the driving.

 

First real drive

So the first real drive took place on Sunday 25th September and it was a blat down with some mates to the British Motor Museum near Gaydon in Warwickshire. This was arranged by the club Mid Staffs Area rep Stuart Bates.

Stuart had arranged a deal where we had both dedicated club parking area and discounted tickets into the museum buildings. A great day out, and in addition to numerous 7’s in our display area, two other mates of mine showed up in a latest model Audi R8 V10 Plus and a AMG GT S. Both cars are monsters, and the AMG sounded like it too, with 600+ BHP and a dump valve kit noisy enough to make some of us jump out of our skins when revved with the bonnet up!

This was the first time I noticed that I had the issue with the leaking brake fluid, and after only after a semi-spirited drive across country.

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From left to right, Revilla, Mucus72 and CraigyB (BlatChat nicknames)

A few snagging issues…

Issues

Drivetrain Vibration

I have had a few issues since driving my car after completion. The most serious of which was a vibration that could be felt through the chassis, through my hands and the seat of my pants. There is a lot more detail I have provided about this via this BlatChat link, including testing other cars with vibration analysis iPhone apps.

For some time I thought it was caused by the Mazda gearbox resting on the chassis rails. It’s a wide box and only just fits in the gap. I did fabricate some spacers to fit under the gearbox mount (out of M14 spacers, with the edges filed down to fit the narrow shape inside the gearbox mount). This raised the box about 3 mm, enoguh to ensure that the gearbox was not resting on the left hand side chassis rail. Before I did this it was definitely resting and this would definitely go some way to explaining the vibrations I was feeling. But it wasn’t the only problem.

In he end, BaT suggested replacing the engine mounts, just in case they weren’t working as intended. They were definitely working, as I had tested vibrations on different parts of the car using an engine stethoscope. However, after BaT replaced the mounts, the rest of the vibrations eased up.

I now think that I have a normal working Duratec engined/Mazda gearbox combination Caterham. Still not as smooth as a K series, but more than good enough.

Brake Fluid Reservoir

My other issue is with the brake fluid reservoir. Basically on its first real outing, my car leaked fluid over the scuttle base on which it is mounted, an some of this fluid seeped over the edge of the car and has stripped paint from the edge (the bit that the bonnet sits on). This is really frustrating because I had not overfilled, and the cap was tight.

After asking others, quite a lot of folk are aware of a design flaw, and this is a small gap in the rear of the cap. This is covered by the rubber o-ring, but there has been some change in recent times and Caterham now supply a very thin o-ring. With the cap on tight, the thin o-ring does not supply a strong enough seal. In fact the cap tightens against its own lip as opposed to against the thickness of the o-ring.

Caterham, via Derek and BaT came up with two potential resolution options. Firstly, it’s a known issue and other solve this by being supplied with a “race cap”, which provides a perfect seal, but doesn’t provide any sensor outputs to the dash. So in effect, it won’t leak, but you won’t know you have lost your brake fluid elsewhere in the system until you crash. I don’t see this as a solution.

The second option, which I am currently trying is to “double up” on the o-rings. Derek sent me another brake fluid reservoir with another equally thin (and therefore badly designed) o-ring. I have taken the o-ring from this and am using now double the thickness by stacking the o-rings in my original reservoir. It’s currently working, as I have had no more fluid leaks.

However, Caterham, via BookaTrack do not see fixing my paint as a warranty issue. I had this report back a few weeks ago, and I have since been back to BaT and ask them to go back again. I find it astonishing that a known flaw with a brake cap that causes paint damage is not warranty repair. I’ll update the blog when I have an answer!