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04 October 2004

9° America's Challenge - update #9

The Winners !!

It's apparently a three-peat in the America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race for Albuquerque's Richard Abruzzo. Abruzzo, flying with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (Team 18), landed safely south of Tulsa, OK shortly after 8:00 AM local Albuquerque time (1400Z), They flew about 600 miles, were in the air approximately 36 hours, and were the last balloon to land.

Former America's Challenge and Coupe Gordon Bennett winner David Levin, flying with his brother Alan (Team 4), is the apparent second place finisher. He landed yesterday evening north of Oklahoma City. The third place team, German pilots Gerd Strasmann and Rainer Herkenhoff, landed yesterday afternoon northwest of Oklahoma City. Lesley Pritchard, flying with Jack Mullen (Team 1), finished fourth. All results will be unofficial for several more days, while the electronic tracking and position data and landing certificates are verified.

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.

Posted by Luc at 11:06 PM

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