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The #DullRoadtrip – Caterham to Croatia

The  #DullRoadtrip started as simply an idea with friends that we wanted to do a road trip and visit places we’d never been before. It was about exploring new areas, and creating amazing experiences. So first of all we decided that we would take the Caterham. Admittedly an awful car to do a road trip in, not much luggage space, noisy, cramped and no air conditioning. That wasn’t enough to stop us though as we knew how amazing it would be when you got it on the right roads.  To make the trip as dull as possible I wanted to incorporate some work to the trip, so I organised some shoots along the way.

The first shoot required me to change my plans and leave earlier than I originally thought we were going to. This would have been easy, except it was my sister’s wedding the day I needed to leave. After speaking to her and asking her nicely she agreed I could leave a little early from it (sorry sis!) in order to drive to the shoot. This all sounds easy, except the shoot was in Molsheim in France which is 600km from Calais, no small journey in a Caterham!

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About half way through the journey is Reims. It would have been rude not to stop at the old circuit for some quick photos!

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The range isn’t very far on the Caterham as the fuel tank is so small. I don’t know how many times I stopped for fuel but it felt like a lot!

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So the reason for leaving my sister’s wedding early and driving through the night was for this very special shoot for B14 who had bought two very very special Bugattis. The first was the Bugatti Chiron from the Geneva Motorshow, which is the first Chiron to be owned by a customer. The second is the totally unique Vision Gran Turismo car which he also managed to acquire. Both incredibly special and well worth the drive!

These photos were all shot on a Hasselblad H5D-50

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After the trip to Bugatti we set off for Freiburg where we met up with Marcel, friend of mine who was to be joining the dull roadtrip for a few days.  Marcel had an AMG GTS for a few days to photograph and HMS had kindly agreed to let him bring it and join the Dull Roadtrip! I didn’t have my camera on me as it was a day off, but we spent the afternoon driving through the black forrest enjoying the roads.  After so many motorway miles it was lovely to find some great roads and enjoy the Caterham on roads it was designed for.

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After Freiburg we set off for Stuttgart to pick up a lovely Mercedes Benz S500e to bring with us to shoot along the way. As Ben had arrived, he hopped in the Caterham and it was my chance to enjoy the S-Class. First thoughts were that it is literally the exact opposite of a Caterham. It’s comfortable, very quiet and relaxing to drive.  Best thing was that it had distronic and lane assist which meant traffic was actually relaxing.

Stuttgart was also the point where another friend, Donny, was to join us in his Ariel Atom. Yes, you read that right. Everyone has a friend who is a bit of a lunatic, Donny is that friend and that’s why he was invited!  Donny and Eleanor his new partner agreed to join us on the trip in his Supercharged Atom, 300hp of pure crazy.

Unfortunately, shortly after leaving Stuttgart and when I’d got back into the Caterham the heavens opened in a way I’d never seen before. Prior to the rain we were cruising at about 200kph on the autobahn, once the rain began we had to slow down to about 50kph due to the high risk of aquaplaning and the terrible visibility. I’ve never seen someone in an S-Class look more smug than when they’re next to an Atom which has no windscreen or body panels. Our overnight stop was in Innsbruck and come darkness Donny and I were miserable and soaked.  The amount of concentration required to drive the Caterham in that amount of water is just totally exhausting, you have to watch the road for larger puddles, all of which have the potential to really ruin the day.  Luckily we were very sensible and our sense of self preservation kept us on the road (and at very slow speeds) all the way to our hotel in Innsbruck.  Unfortunately I didn’t even manage to get my photo out that day, probably a good thing as it’s a day I’d rather forget (but never will…)

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After our stop in Innsbruck we were aiming for a little town in the Dolomites to visit PowerslideLover for a day of fun in his cars.  Thanks to a traffic jam coming into Italy we ended up a little behind schedule. Luckily the roads started drying up and we could push on a bit. Once into Italy and on twisty roads we started to have rather a lot of fun and it made me rather jealous of the extra power of the Atom as Donny could overtake cars so easily. The Atom and Caterham ended up a little way ahead of the S-Class and AMG GTS purely thanks to being small and being able to overtake individual cars instead of having to do several in one go.

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When we arrived at PSL’s house we were greeted by his beautiful 300SL “Gullwing” on the driveway. It would have been rude not to get some photos of it with the S500e before heading out for lunch.

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PSL very kindly offered me a drive in either his 991 GT3RS or 488 Spider. A very hard choice but as I’ve driven a 488 before I opted for the “smurf” GT3RS.  I consider myself a fairly good driver, but when PSL is out in front in his LaFerrari it’s not too easy to keep up!

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I think you’ll agree, not a bad view…

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It really is a pinch yourself moment when you look behind you and a LaFerrari is chasing you down. Sideways.

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It didn’t take me long to swap from the GT3RS into the 488 Spider. The difference between the two cars is huge, the RS feels like a race car for the road and has the most unbelievable amount of grip and a very very smooth power delivery. Hop into the 488 Spider though and suddenly the RS feels underpowered, the power of the 488 is just mental. If you see a gap to overtake you can make it, it’s that fast. The 488 feels like it wants to move around a lot more than the RS too, but as it wasn’t my car I left it in Race mode and remained well behaved! The same couldn’t be said for PSL who did some rather heroic drifts in both 488 and the LaF…

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Black lines seem to just appear wherever he drives…

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When you’re driving quickly it’s quite hard to take in just how amazing the scenery is. Luckily being a photographer I’ve got a good excuse to stop and take it in. I think you’ll agree it’s rather amazing.

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Before the day was out I had to have a ride with PSL in the LaF.  I’ve had rides in lots of fast cars and also driven lots of fast cars, but nothing and I mean nothing comes close to the experience of having a ride in a LaFerrari with PSL on his favourite roads. He’s so in control of the car and he really knows exactly what he can do with it. I think what was most impressive was how quick it approached corners, he was braking at the last moment and trail braking through the corner with the car perfectly balanced before getting on the power at the earliest possible moment to propel us forward to the next corner as quick as possible. If visibility was clear there was a good chance that the exit from the corner might be a sideways one.  It’s rare for me to get my adrenaline going as a passenger but this certainly does it!

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If Carlsberg did days out I think this might be it. Huge thanks to PSL for taking us for a day we’ll never forget!

 

So at this point in the trip we haven’t even made it to the half way point of the trip. The aim which I’m sure you gathered from the title was to take the Caterham to Croatia.  So after the flying visit to PSL it was time to crack on and head for the next destination: Ljubljana in Slovenia. This seemed a good half way spot between PSL and our hotel in Croatia.  Ben was to drive separately in the S-Class straight to the hotel while Donny and I decided we’d take the fun route and hit avoid motorways on the Nav. So out of Italy, through a bit of Austria and into Slovenia with no main roads until we approached the city. This is the perfect way to enjoy these two cars and interestingly the Caterham really showed how good it is. The Atom has double the power but the reality of this is that you only need that power for overtaking. When driving on the road there’s only so much power you can use and that seems to be about the power of the Caterham as Donny admitted that when there wasn’t any traffic to overtake he was going about as fast as he would on a road anyway.

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Beautiful scenery in Austria

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Lunch stop somewhere.

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The keen eyed amongst you will notice the nosecone winglet is hanging off on the above photo. Luckily I noticed before it fell off on the road. Turns out double sided sticky tape isn’t enough to hold them on…

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On the way into Slovenia.

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Ljubljana turned out to be a really pleasant surprise. None of us knew anything about it before deciding to go and it turned out to be a really beautiful and busy city with a lovely atmosphere. Certainly somewhere I’d visit again!

We even managed to plug in the S500e overnight to start the day at full charge.

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Leaving the hotel in Ljubljana to head to Croatia.

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“Welcome to Croatia”  – This felt like a huge achievement to have made it this far! Quite a lot further to go though as we were to be staying in Zadar so had to head down the coast.

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This coast road is up there as one of the best roads I’ve ever driven, definitely more suited to a Caterham than the S-Class, but as it was 37c outside I was quite glad to be in the Mercedes with cooled seats, air conditioning and even an occasional massage! The Caterham by contrast has a hot engine and gearbox by your legs which is not ideal when it’s that hot! Not a huge concern when you’re having that much fun though.

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Little regroup and car swap on Pag island. I drove the S-Class and was going to hang back a bit while the Caterham and Atom had some fun.  The next time I saw them they were both grinning from ear to ear and telling stories of how they’d had some fun with a Lamborghini Gallardo and shown it how light weight is better…

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This is the point we made it to the hotel in Zadar, my camera was put away so just a couple of phone snaps.

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Beautiful sunset

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i think they call this paradise?

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On our first day of relaxing we decided we’d go to the National Park and see the waterfalls. Of course the S-Class was the perfect car for this, we actually felt more relaxed when we got there than when we left.

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The waterfalls are well worth a visit

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We decided to walk back to the car park instead of take the boat as there were quite long queues for the boat. After about 45 mins walking in flip flows I must confess I was regretting the decision. Beautiful views though

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Quick stop in Zadar for dinner

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I’m not very good at relaxing so the next day I took the S-Class out to do some photos along the coast.

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I really did enjoy driving the S-Class, I’m not sure the hybrid would be my choice as it reduces the boot space, but as a package the car really is all you’d ever need.

After our little stay in Zadar it slowly dawned on us that we’re only half way through the trip, we had to get home to London!

Time to head back and of course we took the coast road back out of Croatia.

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We made rather good progress along the coast road but due to traffic we had to stop just into Slovenia as it was starting to get late and one of Donny’s headlights had stopped working meaning he didn’t want to drive at night.

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We found a rather cool hotel to stay at in Slovenia which on arrival turned out to be a Castle with a real moat!

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After a stay fit for royals I decided that I would take the S-Class a different route to Ben & Donny in the Caterham so I could focus a bit more on photographing it. Also it was a good excuse to relax and enjoy the car!

On the way out of Slovenia, approaching Austria.

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Over the hills into Austria meant some lovely roads. The S500e is a very quick car despite it’s weight. I loved the way the dynamic seats held you in place once you started to enjoy yourself a bit.

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It was all beautiful scenery as I made my way through Austria, although it starts to lack variety after a while.

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Back into Germany to regroup with the other cars for dinner.

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After the night near the Eagles Nest, Donny and Eleanor decided they were going to try and blast for Brugge in one day in the Atom. Ultimately they only made it as far as Frankfurt but you can’t deny their ambition for trying! Ha!

Ben and I then took the S-Class and Caterham across to Friedrichshafen for what turned out to be the last overnight stay.

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We then had dinner in Lindau and had a bit of an early night which was lucky as the next day turned out to be a big one…

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Last day with the Mercedes so we dropped back into Austria to do some photos of it. The rain kept getting harder though so we had to call it quits fairly soon after we started.

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After a few shots we drove up to Stuttgart to deliver the car back. This was the point we were slightly worried about. On the way out a friend had driven his car to Stuttgart with all the kit, spares for the Caterham etc.  After he’s got the best content from the trip he left us and took his car home without our luggage (as we were to still visit Croatia at that point). So on the way back we obviously couldn’t get all the kit in the Caterham plus Ben and I.  We worked out the only solution was for Ben to fly from Stuttgart home and take my suitcase as extra baggage then try and pack everything else into the passenger seat of the Caterham.

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It was about 6pm when we got to Stuttgart, my plan was to drive a few hours then find a hotel to get some rest at then do the rest of the drive to Calais the next day. After a few hours though I was still full of energy and so kept going. Then Donny sent me a text saying he bet I couldn’t get home that evening so that decision was made, I was going to blast the whole way home that evening!

I can’t even remember most of the journey but I do know I got home early the next morning and the day after I slept the whole day.  A perfect way to end the trip, and certainly not Dull…

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