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America's Challenge

The America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race was founded by the Balloon Fiesta in 1995 due to the vision and efforts of Mark Sullivan, former Balloon Fiesta President and recipient of the Montgolfier Diplome (one of ballooning's highest honors), who saw the need for America to be identified with the world's most prestigious ballooning sport.

The America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race is modeled after the Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett, but  it differs from the older event in allowing balloons from all countries, without limits on the number of entries from each.   The team that travels the longest distance wins.

2014 America's Challenge

2013 America's Challenge

2013 Gas Balloon Tracking

Click here to track the race!

Gas Balloon News & updates

Update Saturday, October 11, 10:30 PM MDT (0430Z)

Pilots, crews, and officials for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 19th America’s Challenge gathered tonight to celebrate a safe and successful race and to congratulate Anulfo Gonzalez and Angel Aguirre of Spain on their victory.

Update Thursday, October 9, 9:00 AM MDT (1500Z)

The Command Center reports that the final team aloft in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 19th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloon has made a picture-perfect stand-up landing south-southwest of Lebanon, Kentucky.

Update Thursday, October 9, 5:15 PMMDT (1115Z)

There’s a phrase in America: “It’s all over but the shouting.”  Well, at the America’s Challenge, it’s never all over until the last team is safely on the ground, the crew has reached and packed the balloon, and the teams are all on the way back to Albuquerque.

Update: Wednesday, October 8, 11:30 PM MDT (0530Z)

The America’s Challenge Race Command Center has just received word that Kryzsztof Zapart and Mateusz Rękas of Poland (Team 6) have executed a safe night landing near Perryville, MO, about 60 miles (96 km) south-southeast of St. Louis and not far from the Mississippi River.  They traveled 941 miles (1,514 km) in 46 hours aloft, and are the apparent second place finishers in the race.

Tue 10/8/14 10:45 PM MDT (0445Z)

Only two teams remain aloft in the America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons, flying through the night in the quest to travel further than their fellow competitors and claim the title in one of the world’s most prestigious races.

Update Wednesday, October 8, 7:05 PMMDT (0105Z)

The America’s Challenge Command Center has just heard from Team 5, Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke, that they landed safely about 6 PM this evening west of Searcy, Arkansas, after a flight of 825 miles (1,328 km).

Update Wednesday, October 8, 4:45 PMMDT (2245Z)

As we approach sunset on Day 2 of the America’s Challenge, a second team has made a safe landing just north of Grainfield, Kansas, near Interstate 75 east of Oakley.

Update Wednesday, October 8, 2 PMMDT (2000Z)

The Command Center team continues to follow the progress of the five teams still aloft in the 19th America’s Challenge race for gas balloons.  They’ve been closely monitoring weather conditions and talking to chase crews and air traffic controllers, but at this point the race is proceeding routinely.

One of the early leaders in the America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons has landed safely about 47 miles (76 km) east-northeast of Tulsa, OK.  Team 1, Phil Bryant and Andy Cayton, were in the lead when they landed at 8:30 MDT (1430Z) between Adair and Langley, OK due to concerns with weather.  They had traveled 644 miles (1,036 km).

Tue 10/7/14 10:30 PM MDT (0430Z)

People who fly gas balloons will tell you one of their favorite times to fly is on those magical nights where the landscape below is softly illuminated by the light of a full moon.  Tonight, the six competitors in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons are enjoying such a night as they press on towards the 24-hour mark and the completion of their first full day aloft.

Tue 10/7/14 7:30 PM MDT (0130Z)

While the race continues and the teams are cruising across Texas – hey, it’s a BIG state! – and now into Oklahoma, this might be a good time to answer some of the many questions we’ve received over the last few days about gas balloons and the America’s Challenge race.

Tue 10/7/14 12:15 PM MDT (1915Z)

The competitors in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 19th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons continue to head across Texas at a respectable clip: in the 20-30 mph (34-47 kmh) range.  The trend continues to be generally east to northeast, but several different strategies seem to be developing.

Update: 9:45 AM (1545Z) Tuesday, October 7

The six seriously competing America’s Challenge teams have been clipping right along over the past nine or so hours, and most have now crossed or are about to cross the New Mexico-Texas border.

Patience paid off for pilots, crews, and a handful of stalwart spectators at Balloon Fiesta Park who were witness to a spectacular nighttime launch for the 19th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons.

Throughout this evening, the America’s Challenge launch has been on hold waiting for strong winds across the launch site to dissipate.  The winds at Balloon Fiesta Park have now decreased to acceptable levels.  Officials are waiting to be sure the winds will stay calm before beginning inflation.  Assuming the winds stay light, inflation should begin within the next few minutes and a launch can be anticipated in the wee hours of the morning.

The seven teams competing in the 19th America’s Challenge race for gas balloons will soon be headed to Balloon Fiesta Park to begin assembling their equipment in anticipation of a launch this evening.

The members of the seven America’s Challenge teams have been taking it easy in Albuquerque Sunday, while race officials consider options for a launch sometime in the next two to three days.

The balloons were laid out, the pilots and teams were ready, and the race was a go – and then the winds came and just wouldn’t go away.  So the launch of the America’s Challenge race for gas balloons is on hold until at least Monday evening.

Sometime late tonight, seven balloons competing in the 19th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons will head skyward with one simple goal – fly further than anyone else in the race.  Launch is anticipated sometime around or after 10:30 PM, after the Twilight Twinkle Glow and fireworks on Saturday evening.

Seven teams from four nations answered the roll call as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta welcomed a distinguished international field of competitors to the 19th America’s Challenge distance race for balloons.

Three European Teams Take On U.S. Veterans
Official results have now been released for the 18th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons, confirming that Team 1, Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke, are the winners. 

The last balloon aloft in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 18th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons has made a safe landing about four miles north of White River in Ontario, Canada.

For most of the night, apparent America’s Challenge winners Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke have been transiting Lake Superior.  They’ve now been in the air more than 58 hours and have flown about 1,360 miles (2,185 km).

 

One balloon remains aloft in the 18th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons.

The Command Center has just received word that Team 5, Phil Bryant and Andy Cayton, have landed safely near Long Prairie, Minnesota. Their only problem? Mosquitoes at the landing site!

Mark Sullivan and Cheri White (Team 4), the leaders in the America’s Challenge through most of the race, have just reported a safe landing east of Alexandria, Minnesota.

The next few hours will be critical ones in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 18th America’s Challenge race for gas balloons.

Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it! After making slow progress for the first day of the race, the three America’s Challenge balloons still flying are screaming along at near-freeway speeds.

“It’s anybody’s race” is almost a cliché – but with the 18th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons, with the top two teams flying neck and neck and a third lurking ready to pounce, it really is anybody’s race to win.

While America slept, the complexion of the America’s Challenge race has changed dramatically – from a seeming one-team race to a neck and neck battle between two teams with Albuquerque connections.

It’s a long, cold night in east central Colorado for the four America’s Challenge teams remaining aloft as they journey northeastward toward Nebraska in what is fast becoming a very competitive race; only 40 miles separate the four teams still flying. A fifth team is now out of the race. John Kugler and Bert Padelt (Team 3) have safely landed near Springfield, CO.

Things are percolating along for the five teams in the 18th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons as they progress relatively slowly across northeastern New Mexico and southeastern Colorado. At this writing, it’s been a couple of hours since the phone has rung in the Command Center, an indication that things are going well aloft.

The weather gurus told the America’s Challenge teams that their first night aloft would be s-l-o-w . . . an exercise in patience as they seemed to go nowhere.  They weren’t kidding.

Five balloons are headed slowly northeastward out of Albuquerque, after a picture-perfect beginning to the 18th America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons.

The five America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race teams are reading their equipment and preparing to go to Balloon Fiesta Park for inflation and a journey that may take the balloons into the Midwest and Canada.

America’s Challenge Event Director John Petrehn has just announced a one-day postponement in the launch of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons.
Five teams, ten pilots, one goal . . . to fly safely the longest distance from Balloon Fiesta Park and emerge triumphant in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 18th America’s Challenge for gas balloons.  Launch is scheduled for approximately 6 PM on Saturday, October 5 from Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park.  The launch is half of a spectacular Balloon Fiesta double-header which also includes the Twilight Twinkle Glow for hot air balloons.

Most of the competitors in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s 18th America’s Challenge cross-country race for gas balloons are in Albuquerque this evening, preparing their equipment and supplies for their journey. Destination? Unknown.

News Archives

Archive of Race Teams (PDFs)

Archive of Results (PDFs)


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