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24 Hours of Rouen is Done

In 1999, I covered the 24 Hours of Rouen, which is held on the River Seine approximately 90 miles west of Paris. From noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, the outboard-powered tunnel boats that ran up and down the famed French waterway looked like manic waterbugs and sounded like angry bees.

It was an epic race—during which I got to know Fred Kiekhaefer, the president of Mercury Racing—to cover and a dream assignment. it was also made bittersweet by a crash between famed American endurance racer Bob Wartinger and Francis Mare of France in the middle of the night. The accident claimed Mare’s life.

Without question, the 24 Hours of Rouen has always been a dangerous race, and this weekend that proved true once more when a race boat crashed into one of two safety boats escorting a commercial vessel up the river. A French police officer on one of the safety boats was killed, and the race was called off—permanently.

I learned of this sad turn of events yesterday through an email I received from Kiekhaefer, who also sent me a link to the official 24 Hours of Rouen web site. (For more detail on the accident, please visit the site.)

“What a sad ending to one of the last, great boat races,” Kiekhaefer wrote in his email.”

I couldn’t agree more.