Skip to content

Marilyn Monza, Arctic Midnight Sun | Day 2

Marilyn Monza, Arctic Midnight Sun | Day 2

Karlstad. Sunrise at 3.53

The second day of the Arctic Midnight Sun could be described as a sort of transit day on a linear route: the first-class roads chosen, wide, well asphalted or well gravelled, with just enough curvy bends to avoid numbing our drivers' arms, made it possible to cover the 560 km (the longest daily distance of the event) to the north with relative ease, not without adding a little spice to the dish of the day, which was “baked”  (not a random word, since Wasabröd, the largest crisp bread manufacturer in the world, has a factory in this area) with 4 regularities (the first one is going to be the longest of the event), reminding us of the dual soul of this event, a mix of sightseeing and competition.

This morning, just before 8 o'clock, the crews were much relieved to discover that the drops they found on the cars were not rain but mere dew because the sun, risen at the hour when I used to come back from party nights as a youngster, was shining in a Renault Alpine blue sky. So off went the open tops of the Triumphs, Austin Healey and Ford Mustangs, out came the hats and sunglasses, even sunscreen (not after a navigator asked me for advice as a tanning expert, claiming I had teak-coloured skin).

Today, the 21 cars set off again in numerical order and reached the first regularity, which, apart from the usual gravel in the forest, was characterised by the soft pink and deep purple of the lupines, which framed the road like coloured fences. There was little traffic on the road on this first day of July, apart from a few large lorries, which it was not hard to guess were transporting timber. Actually, the landscape confirmed yesterday’s prediction: forests as far as the eye could see therefore by the end of the day, I feared that I had contracted a form of colour blindness that made me see everything green, in its infinite shades and, thanks to my experience as a bricoleur in painting the walls of my home, I can claim to have recognised shades from Pantone 3375 to 378 or RAL 6000 to 6039, depending on which colour scale you prefer.

It's easy to say 'forest' but what are we talking about? Gradually I was reminded of the notions I learned from my father, an architect and wood expert, during our walks in the Italian Alps and I can tell you that we are talking about the Swedish pine, an evergreen tree of the Pinaceae family. It is an upright tree that can reach a height of 40 metres; the wood is reddish-white, soft, resinous, durable, weather-resistant, has good general workability and is therefore used for window frames, shipbuilding and musical instruments. End of construction technology lesson.

After so much nature, human contact was restored in Fredriksberg, at Time Control 2.2 for the morning coffee, in a small and crowded bakery with a dehor, where a group of curious locals had gathered, the first indication of the widespread passion for classic cars in this area, as we were to find out later in the day.

Two timing points were expected on the second flat and straight regularity, which differed from the first only in that clouds of whipped cream (oh my, I see food everywhere) appeared in the sky. The almost total absence of junctions, turns and crossroads gave the navigators a smooth “welcome aboard” today (oops, a nautical pun…) but I am afraid that in some cases it caused sudden bouts of drowsiness, so that a secret check, mischievously insinuated by Clerk of the Course Nick Reeves in a sudden, tiny road parallel to the much larger main link section, to entertain the crews, was skipped. This must have been the case inside the Porsche Car 7, where the crew, made up of Alain Lejeune and his brother-in-law Christian Chavy, who took part in the 2019 Peking to Paris, must be used to very different roads that shake the cockpit like an earthquake test machine, where bumps and potholes like abysses keep the attention threshold much higher than the smooth Swedish roads.

In my opinion, one of the highlights of the day was the pontoon bridge in Gagnef, built in red wood (needed to be said?), where many participants, taking advantage of the one-way street, stopped to take souvenir photos.

Staying with the theme of “carpentry”, I spent a good part of the day rattling off the names of the places I passed through, pronouncing them correctly perhaps only on the third try (I can only imagine how many 'say it again' resounded in cars when navigators told drivers to 'take the exit to Trehörningsjö) and reflecting on the fact that they sounded like the names of Ikea furniture. I then got the impression that the Rattvik, our lunch venue for the day was a bookshelf or that the coffee in Ljusdal was served in a place named like a cloakroom… In any case, kudos to the founder of Ikea who, being dyslexic, gave his products familiar and easy-to-remember Scandinavian names: perhaps he never imagined that global distribution would apparently make the rest of the world dyslexic!

A similar language problem seems to exist in the cockpit of Car 24, the Mercedes Benz W123 v230E, where Swedish-born driver Johan Sjöblom seems to laugh out loud as his wife Janine struggles, with noticeable but rather poor results, to pronounce the names in the roadbook or on road signs.

The lakeside town of Rattvik was the site of our lunch venue, an American-style diner with a Cadillac inside (in Tiffany or Riva colours, depending on whether you're more into jewellery or boats), which gave Car 5 Ford Falcon and Car 9 Shelby American a 'home away from home' feel: a widespread and somewhat unexpected presence of typically American classic cars on the road, many of which take part in the area's annual Classic Car Week.

The next two hours were spent on a long link road, where we noticed that not only were the houses red, but so were some sections of the road (no, there were no paint cans left over from the houses...). This is because iron oxide is added to the asphalt mix to maintain the colour over time and reduce maintenance. Meanwhile, we've moved out of the forest and into the countryside, where some farms have loppis (flea markets) where you can drink fresh milk, so I couldn't resist making myself a Swedish macchiato with espresso coffee (which I always carry with me as I visit the UK, where they try to pass off dirty water as coffee) and fresh Swedish cow's milk.

On the same stretch, Peter and Louisa Morton in Car 18 BMW 2002 broke the throttle cable, but the quick intervention of the mechanics team led by Rob Kitchen allowed them (experienced high level sailors) to set the sails in time to reach the third Regularity before the closure. It's no coincidence that the new winner of the 2024 Round The Isle Race on his TP52 today made a comeback that took him to... don't be curious, get to the end of today's chapter of the renamed 'Arctic Comedy' to find out...

Regularity 3 held no major surprises in terms of driving, navigation or gravel (although it was definitely dustier than yesterday), while Reg 4 was much more eventful as a road closure after the only scheduled timing point meant that the Clerk of the Course had to plan the diversion and position the orange arrows to the hotel while his deputy, Ed Rutherford, kept the cars in the queue until the all-clear was given. This was not the only unexpected event at the end of the day for the Eiselben in Car 9 Shelby American GT 350H, whose brakes failed and who were looked after by the Mortons until the mechanics arrived to escort them to their destination. Fun fact: the car's number plate is HERTZ because it was a rental car in the past.

The daily route took the HERO-ERA caravan to Sundsvall, a city that sits on the shores of the Bothnian Sea which links to the Baltic and put an end to the daily dose of sunshine, welcoming us with a light but helpful rain to shake off the day's sand from our bonnets.

From the competition point of view, the general lack of major navigation errors meant that there was little movement at the top of the leader board. Still firmly in the lead are the Pusniks in Car 17, closely followed by the Mortons in Car 18 (not affected by their accident) and the team in car 22, whose 'excitement' yesterday obviously put the pedal to the metal... We will probably have to wait for the two tests on day 4 to shake things up.

My thoughts for the night: women are like cars, you can trade her in for a newer and younger model, but one day you will miss her and she’ll have become a classic and out of your price range


Sundsvall. Sunset at 22.46

We use cookies to give you the best experience of using this website. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.