If the preliminary results hold, Richard Abruzzo, David Levin, and Lesley Pritchard will compete next year on American soil in the Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett, the world's most prestigious gas balloon distance race. The three top U.S. pilots in the America's Challenge qualify to compete in the Gordon Bennett. The race is held annually and is traditionally staged in the country of the previous year's winner. Richard Abruzzo's victory in this year's Gordon Bennett will return the race to the United States. Because the third-place pilot, Gerd Strasmann, flew in the America's Challenge representing Germany, Pritchard qualifies for the Gordon Bennett.
If the unofficial results are confirmed, the amazing Abruzzo will have won the America's Challenge the last three years and five times overall, flying with four different co-pilots (David Melton, Jacob Traub, Gary Johnson (twice), Carol Rymer Davis).
Weather was an important factor in this year's race, as concerns about thunderstorms caused many of the balloons to land early. America's Challenge race winners often fly more than 1,000 miles and are in the air upwards of 50 hours. David Levin holds the America's Challenge distance record of 1998.1 miles (3215 km) set in 2000. The America's Challenge duration record of 67 hours-plus was set by Mark Sullivan and Cheri White in 2002.
This will be the last of our race updates. We will post the official results when they become available.