NORCs to you all
That’s Northern Off Road Club.
It is curious how focused ones mind becomes in moments of great stress or fear. The moment that is the subject of this missive is when I was upside down in a rotating modified Land Rover awaiting the inevitable crunch and pain of a hard landing that was just moments away. The actual thought was along the lines of “what the chuff am I doing here?”
Some while previously I had agreed to buy a short wheel base Land Rover that had been used in ‘comp safari’, a form of racing against a clock on a tortuous cross country circuit. I had been a spectator of one of these events some weeks earlier and it had fired in me a desire to compete in motorsport, and this seemed to be a slightly cheaper way. This particular vehicle was a well used example, but in quite good condition and equipped with an Alfa Romeo 1.9 OHC engine, a four speed box from a Land Rover fire engine and two Jaguar LSDs (Limited Slip Differentials). As part of the arrangement the seller agreed to drive the first circuit with me as co-driver and after that I was on my own!
Now as a spectator, the cars didn’t seem to travel too fast, lots of noise and mud and dust, but due to the extreme track surfaces and holes and ditches progress seemed to be fairly restrained. The start was controlled by a set of traffic lights that looked as though they had been ‘borrowed’ from some nearby council roadworks, we were strapped in, helmeted and ready to go. The lights turned green.
We took off like a startled rabbit towards the woods just yards away, a sharp right turn along a deeply rutted track and the car side swiping against the trees as we sped along at what was seemingly an insane speed for the conditions. Out of the woods and the track opened up into a space about 50 yards wide and several hundred yards long, into top gear and bouncing along this open part of a disused quarry. I glanced at the vendor, he was wrestling with the wheel, trying to keep a straight course but just along the left side there was a huge rock and no matter what inputs were made to the steering, we were headed towards it at maximum velocity.
Well of course we hit it, just a glancing blow, but enough to cause the vehicle to somersault, arse over tit (which where we came in). I know we turned over twice at least, my memory is a little vague, but I recall most vividly that the fire extinguisher between the seats came loose and seemed to just hang in mid air whilst we rotated around it. The car hit the deck on all four wheels, there was dust and smoke all around us, the fire extinguisher obeyed the laws of gravity and hit me in the chest. Silence. I looked across at the vendor, expecting him to dazed, unconscious or dead; he reached out to the dashboard, pressed the starter motor, the silence was broken by the roar of an Alfa 1.9 and we were off!
I don’t remember much of the rest of the course, on our return I inspected the Land Rover but apart from a cracked windscreen little damage was visible. The vendor agreed to replace the screen and the lusty little machine was mine.