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.
Update 845 AM MDT (1445Z) Monday, October 9, 2017
Only 38 hours have passed in the America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons, and the leaders have been clocking a blistering pace across the country. The first and second-place teams are now past the 1,000 mile mark and increasing their distance at the rate of 40-50 mph or more (roughly 60-70 kph). In a balloon, that’s moving.
Update 9:30 PM MDT Sunday, October 8 (0330Z) Monday, October 9
It’s a quiet night aloft in the U.S. Midwest and in the America’s Challenge Command Center in Albuquerque, but underneath the quiet an intensively competitive race has been developing. The teams competing in the America's Challenge distance race for gas balloons are at this writing scattered across six states. But in terms of distance from the launch point in Albuquerque, seven of the eight teams are separated by only about 80 miles. The difference between first and second? Only five miles!
Update 4:45 PM MDT (2245Z) Sunday, October 8, 2017
The Swiss team of Nicolas Tièche and Laurent Sciboz (Team 6) continues to lead the way in the 22nd America’s Challenge for gas balloons, but an interesting strategic race is unfolding as the teams decide where to position themselves along a “weather highway’ to the Midwest and Northeast.
Update 6:30 AM MDT (1230Z) Sunday, October 8, 2017
Well, so much for the forecast that the teams in the 22nd America’s Challenge would hang around eastern New Mexico overnight on the first night of the race . . . The current leaders are already in Kansas and simply hauling northeast.
Update 9:30 PM MDT Saturday, October 7, 2017 (0330Z Sunday, October 8, 2017)
What a gorgeous night for the beginning of the 22nd America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons! Tens of thousands of people witnessed the launch from Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, followed by an amazing balloon glow and fireworks display.