An International, all-female team will compete for the first time in the 48th annual 24 Hours of Rouen endurance powerboat race, May 26-28. Olympic Team Rouennais (OTR) drivers include Bimba Sjoholm of Sweden, Marie-Line Hericher of France, Norwegian Mette Bjerknaes and Canadian Tammy Wolf. The ladies’ attack vessel will use a Mercury OptiMax 200XS SST outboard to race against competitors with like power — those with Mercury SST 120 race outboards in Class 2. They’ll also be up against more powerful Mercury S3000 race outboard powered entries in Class 3. With OptiMax’s fuel economy advantage, Team OTR has a real shot at an overall win.
Veteran female F1 driver Marit Stromoy of Norway, who is also competing in Rouen for the first time, will campaign a Mercury S3000 powered boat in Class 3 competition.
This is Tammy’s first Rouen experience. “It is a dream come true to attend such a legendary and historical event. I never thought I would have the opportunity to compete in the toughest and most challenging tunnel boat race in the world,” said Tammy. No new comer, she’s been racing boats for over 17 years.
I asked Tammy how the team came about. “The team was chosen by Team Manager Albert Hericher (Marie’s husband) and Operations Manager Carl Kinder. They reviewed the top female tunnel boat drivers in the world and I am honored to be one who was hand-picked for this team,” Tammy said. Two-time Rouen champion Chris Fairchild has been giving her guidance over the past couple of months. “Chris taught me Rouen is not won on the first lap. The race will equally be about survival and speed. I believe a constant strong performance is needed to be successful,” said Tammy. “Driving in Rouen is an honor; finishing in Rouen is a great achievement; a podium finish will be a dream. The most incredible part of this journey is the amazing support I have had from Mercury, Peters and May, my family, friends and fans,” Tammy said.
This is also Bimba’s first trip to Rouen. Bimba, a 17-year powerboat racing veteran, is the reigning European F4 Champion. Like Tammy, she plans to run a steady race, with finishing a priority.
Marie has over 25 years of driving experience and is a 14-year Rouen veteran. She and her husband Albert will be celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary in Rouen. They were married on the banks of the River Seine during the 1999 24-Hour race. Marie, who has competed in all three race classes in Rouen, would love nothing more than to win the event overall. But – she is a realist. Her immediate goal for the team is to win Class 2.
Mett Brandt Bjerknaes
Mett has been racing boats for four years. This is her first trip to Rouen. “I’m very excited! My dad (Morten Bjerknaes) competed in the Paris 6 hour race in the 80’s together with Chris Bush and the late Jim Hauenstein. “Now it’s my turn!,” Mett said.
Mett is the only member of the team with Mercury 200XS experience. “I have been racing with the 200XS since 2010, last year in the World Championship. I’m very comfortable with it. OptiMax is the perfect endurance engine,” said Mett. Her race strategy is to keep out of trouble while keeping average speed as high as possible. “In Scandinavia we are quite used to racing in rough water, so I’m hoping for an advantage. I also think my experience with the OptiMax is to the team’s benefit,” Mett said.
I’m excited for the women in their pursuit of the coveted Rouen checkered flag. Having been there to cover the race on three occasions is an experience I will never forget. The historic OptiMax sweep of the event in 2000 is my fondest Rouen memory. My hope for this year? This feisty team expands upon their historic voyage by winning the event overall and adding another OptiMax entry in the Rouen records book. No pressure. Just say’in.
However, this is Rouen. It’s 24 hours of racing. It’s never easy. And Marit will give the all female team a run for their money — as will the reigning 2011 race winner and Class 2 champ. I wish all competitors the best of luck and safe racing.