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02 October 2004

Launch Order Ninth America’s Challenge

Last may not necessarily mean least for Richard Abruzzo and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson in the Ninth America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race, scheduled to launch Saturday evening, October 2, from Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, NM.

Abruzzo and Johnson will be last of the 18 competing teams to set off on their quest to fly the longest distance and capture what would be, for Abruzzo, a fifth America’s Challenge win. Abruzzo’s reaction on finding out he’d be the last competitor aloft: “Again?” He was among the last to launch in both the 2002 and 2003 America’s Challenges. He won both events.

The launch order was determined by random draw at a pilot briefing earlier today. At this briefing, pilots also received preliminary weather information and instructions from Event Director Pat Brake, Safety Officer Matt Guthrie, and Command Center Team Leader Fred Lété.

First to launch will be the team of Lesley Pritchard and Jack Mullen. The teams launch at approximately five-minute intervals, and each team is saluted by the national anthem(s) of the team members as they soar aloft.

Race officials are optimistic that the America’s Challenge will launch Saturday evening. The launch window is scheduled to open at approximately 7 PM, after the completion of competition in the Fiesta Challenge, a new event featuring 100 hot-air balloons. A decision on the time of launch will be made at a briefing scheduled for noon MDT (1800Z) Saturday.

The following is the launch order:

Team #1: Lesley Pritchard / Jack Mullen
Team #2: Barbara Fricke / Peter Cuneo
Team #3: Gordon Boring / Joe Kittinger
Team #4: David Levin / Alan Levin
Team #5: Wilhem Eimers / Greg Winker
Team #6: Alfred Derks / Hedwig Nieland
Team #7: Mark Sullivan / Cheri White
Team #8: Gerd Strasmann / Rainer Herkenhoff
Team #9: Louis Vitanza / Albert Padelt
Team #10: Andy Cayton / Stuart Enloe
Team #11: Ruth Lind / Carol Rymer Davis
Team #12: Tom Boylan / Bob McCluskey
Team #13: Anja Kuemmerlein / Volker Ricken
Team #14: Peter Krafczyk / Josef Scherzer
Team #15: Janet Folkes / Bill Arras
Team #16: Bruce Hale / Bob McGimpsey
Team #17: Phil MacNutt / Brian Critelli
Team #18: Richard Abruzzo / Gary Johnson

This year’s America’s Challenge features a distinguished international field from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria. It includes the winners of two of the world’s most prestigious gas balloon events. Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis captured the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett by flying from eastern France to northern Sweden. (Rymer Davis is flying with Ruth Lind in the America’s Challenge). Peter Krafczyk of Germany is competing hot on the heels of his win in the World Gas Balloon Championships.

Check this site for regular updates.

Posted by Luc at 11:15 AM

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