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Marilyn Monza, Arctic Midnight Sun 2024 | Day 7

Marilyn Monza, Arctic Midnight Sun 2024 | Day 7

Narvik. Sunrise at 0.00 – Sunset at 0.00

After the rest day (or at least non-driving day) in Narvik, during which many of the crews stretched their ankylosed legs from the first 50 hours of driving with a walk to the top of Mount Narvikfjellet, to enjoy the panoramic view of the town and Ofotfjord (well, let's pretend the cable car didn't give them a ride there and back), day 7 had a change of course in store for us, as for the first time since our departure a week ago, the compass pointed south and today, for 430 km, our return journey along the coast began.

The 21 crews were ready to set off at sunrise - ooops, no, the sun hasn't risen or set since 3 July...), but they were greeted to celebrate the first day of competition in Norway by none other than one of the mightiest of the Æsir, the Norse sky gods, Thor, the god of thunder and storms, who decided to show off by pouring enough rain on the way to Skarberget to turn the Sahara into a lush botanical garden. And since welcome committees in Norway seem to have to consist of a triad, the god of caravans Capron and the goddess of caravans Laika, also made an appearance, as unwelcome as Thor's, littering the streets with their stubbornly slow worshippers, heedless of the queues of vehicles forming behind them.

So, under the best of auspices, our daring competitors headed for the harbour to inaugurate the first of four ferry crossings on this voyage, bound for Bognes. In fact, the Norwegian archipelago is dotted with fjords (arms of the sea that penetrate the coastline, of varying width and depth, flooding a glacial or river valley) that require the use of a nautical means, the construction of a bridge or the digging of a tunnel in order to travel along the coast. The 30-minute or so drive on Tysfjorden gave the crews a chance to sip coffee while trying to synchronise with the movement of the waves, due to the strong wind, to avoid drooling, to try to dry rain-wet clothes for those crews equipped with non-waterproof cars (such as the Robertson's Triumph) or to tirelessly try to convince onlookers, as Peter Hanimann did, that his Car 16 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super 1600 (which belonged to a nun in the 1970s) is neither black nor brown but precisely aubergine-coloured (hence the further discussion that in British English it is called aubergine and in American English it is called eggplant).

The Main Time Control 7.1 was set up at Innhavet, 130 km south of Narvik, to assign the starting order for the day based on arrival time at the MTC (first in first served), but the crews, eager to get their time cards back out the window to the marshals, anticipated the ferry crossing and so it was decided to advance each time on the daily schedule by 15 minutes until the midday TC. After struggling through the first few ups and downs of the day, Car 14 Datsun 240Z, which had suffered clutch problems two days ago, made it to the MTC but immediately left for Mo I Rana, skipping the day's Regs but still staying in the race, in the hope of making it to Trondheim tomorrow to retrieve the clutch plate, which a mechanic had flown in personally from the UK. Rumour has it that when singer Sia heard about Brad Mottier and Bill Hoff's efforts, she changed the lyrics of her song 'Unstoppable', substituting Porsche in the new version. “I’m unstoppable, I’m a Datsun with no clutch, I’m invincible, Yeah I win every single game.”

The resumption of our trip started with a pleasant run on the E6, where the change in the landscape from Sweden is evident, along what here you never know if it’s a lake or a fjord (unless you stop to take a sip of water to see if it is sweet or salty) and finally in sight of the first mountains we have seen since leaving Gothenburg. Here the rocks are crystalline, mainly gneiss and granite, while the vegetation is subarctic, a tundra of mosses, lichens and shrubs growing in the shade of temperate conifers, deciduous trees and birches.

When we tackled the first regularity, I was almost surprised that it was on tarmac and not gravel, nor was I more used to the ups and downs of undulating roads. Regularity 2 from Straumen was just a diversion road from E6, winding its way through insanely green farmland, on the way to lunch at Fauske, where the TC is located on the waterfront, on the shores of the Skjerstad Fjord, just to have a snack with a view, finally in the sunshine. The third Regularity, near the river Luonosjåhkå (now that I have finally learnt the correct pronunciation of Scandinavian toponymy, I confess to being a bit of a sadist, writing them down to make your tongue tangle trying to read them), ensured that everyone was kept on their toes.

The afternoon Route Check was to answer the question “What color is The Volvo in the bushes?” but unfortunately the Volvo, since the time of the recce, has moved so Nick Reeves drew a picture of the Volvo, wrote “I am red” on it and stuck it beside the road: everyone got it but Daisy Pyle, the glamorous and bubbling Cuban navigator in Car 8, very diligent indeed, started knocking on the door asking people if there was a Volvo in the bushes anywhere…

At 3.15 p.m., the first car in the starting order, the Car 17 Saab 99L, officially left Midsun Night Land, as it crossed the Arctic Circle on the Norwegian side, called Polarsirkel Senteret and located at 66°33'N, in the Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park. Nothing to do with the solitary and intimate dimension of the crossing in Sweden, here the Visitor Centre (which also includes a bistro and a cinema) is a real tourist attraction (especially for the ubiquitous Capron and Laika followers who have invaded the car park): here was Time Control 7. 3, for the ritual photo and stamp in the passport or, in my case, directly on the forehead (like a true nostalgic, I couldn't resist sending a postcard to my family, something I hadn't done since 1985...).

I must personally give Clerk of the Course Nick Reeves an earful because on the link section to the first test in Norway, I discovered that Storforshei is home to the Arctic Circle Classic Motorcycle Museum and a stop was in order! I was tempted to rent a Zundapp KS750 with sidecar to continue my journey but I'm not sure my travelling companion would have appreciated the extremely airy accommodation and my two-wheeled escapades!

The first test in Noway, both on tarmac and gravel. was set up at Røssvoll Motorstadion, near the airport, opened by Keke Roseberg in 1982 where the crews had a lot of fun and a bit of confusion around some tricky cones. The fastest were the Engelens in Car 20 in 1:31 secs but they hit a cone, so the penalty took them to 1:41 secs; also the Mortons in Car 18 recorded 1:41 secs but without any penalty so they actually were the winners of the test. John Bacon in Car 21 had a good run, as well as the Robertson in the oldest car on the event.

At the end of the day, the same test result is reflected in the overall classification, where the Mortons in Car 18 are still firmly in the lead, followed by the Engelens in Car 20, with Car 22 back in third place; the Pusniks in Car 17, who had dominated the first two days of the race, are also making a comeback.

Our final destination today was Mo I Rana, on Ranfjorden shores (that roughly means ‘the moorlands in the region of the fast water flow’), that is home to Åarjelhsaemien (Southern Sámi), while Narvik was home to the Northern Sami. Sadly, we will not have time for a dive into the very Pluragrotta underwater cave or into Setergrotta underground grotto but after a long and exciting day on the road, the only thing I want to dive into now is a soft mattress under a mountain of blankets.


Mo I Rana. Sunset at 0.34

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