24 Heures Motonautiques de Rouen

The fiftieth running of the legendary Rouen 24 Hour race kicks off at 15.30 on Saturday May 18 and this year’s event sees no less than six drivers who are also competing on the 2013 UIM F2 World Championship series taking part. The event which became well known for its night-time racing will be based on three sessions; six hours racing on May 18, followed by twelve hours racing on May 19, concluding with a further six hours of racing on May 20.

Amongst the thirty two registered teams is the Olympic Team Rouennais with their Mercury powered DAC and back with the team for a second year is Bimba Sjoholm. Her performance last year gave both the French OTR team and the Swede a taste for more.

“We did not want to lose our favourite driver and therefore it was natural to work in the best way to get Bimba back into the team for 2013” said French team manager Albert Hericher. “This year, she will run a more competitive DAC boat with a newer engine.”

“It’s a fantastic race that is indescribable” said Sjoholm. “It’s an incredible change to what you’re used to as a boat racing driver. You want to be first, but not forget that this is an endurance race and you need to work together as a team if you’re going to reach the top.”

This is powerboat racing’s biggest circuit race where three classes, F1, F2 and F4 compete simultaneously on the 3.8 km course around Ile Lacroix in the centre of Rouen. It’s not for the faint hearted as the 32 boats lap the small island, racing under bridges, whilst battling the strong tides and negotiating the cargo ships passing along the River Seine. The event regularly attracts an audience of about 400,000 spectators over the three day period.

Back for a second year is Mette Brandt Bjerknaes. The young Norwegian driver has joined the Team Dailly Inshore Passion in their Formula Moore boat racing in Class Two against Sjoholm.

“I am so excited about racing in Rouen again” said Bjerknaes, “Plus I’m extremely honoured to be invited to race together with the 2012 World Champions. Last year was the first time I raced for 24 hours and now I can’t get enough. I love the way the race is all about keeping the ‘machinery’ going as fast as you can for as long as you possibly can.”

Endurance events are nothing new to the Bjerknaes household as her father Morten raced with the hard charging American racer Chris Bush at the Paris 6 Hour back in the 1980’s.

“I really hope to make this race an annual event for Bjerknaes Racing and if the results go well this year I want to be in Augustow in July for the concluding round of the World Circuit Endurance Championship.” Sandermoen AS is sponsoring Mette’s participation in the 24 hour event, as well as her entire season in the Formula 2 World Championship.

 

Team Balt Yacht will also be competing in Class Two over the weekend in Rouen this time using a BaBa hull powered by a Mercury Optimax engine. Joining the teams number one driver Bartek Marszalek, will be the Russian Stanislas Kourtsenovsky, along with Atis and Uvis Slakteris from Latvia.

This team of highly experienced drivers have for many years competed on the international scene with Marszalek spending three seasons in F2, Uvis Slakteris, who of course finished third in last years F2 World Championship, including wining the British GP, and Kourtsenovsky, who will once again compete in this years F2 series after finishing 9th in the F1 World Championship in 2012.

The final team consisting of current F2 World Championship drivers is Team Neptune Inshore. Back in 2010 Simone Schuft became the first German woman to race the Rouen 24 event when she was one of four drivers racing a boat in Class One for Formula 4. Last year the team entered Class Two and after the three day format Schuft became the first German woman on the podium when the team took second place in their class. They also went on to further success at the 8 hour race in Augustow, Poland and in doing so collected a bronze medal in the UIM Endurance World Championship Class Two category.

Alongside Schuft will be the French drivers Matt Manchon and Vincent Ducellier and completing the line up will be her fellow countryman Yvonne Koenig who made her F2 World Championship debut last year at the British GP.  Koenig, the former hydroplane racer, also shared success with Team Neptune Inshore when she made her Rouen debut in 2012.

“It’s a great honour to be racing at the 50th edition of the Rouen 24 hours, a historical race” said Schuft. “It’s an event full with positive energy, full of drive, with more than a hundred pilots from 32 teams competing in three different classes all at same time on the water, it is amazing. Then there is an enormous amount of stress not only for the boats, but also for the pilots as well, racing two hours at a time before handing over the steering wheel to your team mate. The team has done a lot of preparations and prepared the boat well for the upcoming race, so let’s hope that by 4pm on Monday afternoon we have done enough to once again climb the podium steps.”

You can keep track on how all the drivers get on by logging onto www.24heuresrouen.com

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