America's Challenge Competitors Aloft in Gordon Bennett
A number of America’s Challenge competitors past, present, and future are in the air right now in Europe, competing in the world’s oldest air race. The Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett launched this afternoon MDT (approximately 2100 local time in France/2200Z) from Montbeliard in southeastern France. The Gordon Bennett is considered to be the world championships of distance gas ballooning.
Two teams are carrying the U.S. flag in this year in the Gordon Bennett.
- Team USA-1 pilot Mark Sullivan is competing in his 22nd America’s Challenge; he ranks second all-time in the number of Gordon Bennett races flown. His teammate Cheri White is flying in her 10th America’s Challenge. Cheri and Mark have finished as high as third in the Gordon Bennett (2009,) and are two-time America’s Challenge champions.
- Team USA-2 is headed by Andy Cayton, who finished second in the Gordon Bennett last year and has twice won the America’s Challenge. Andy’s co-pilot in the Gordon Bennett is race newcomer John Hager.
Several international Gordon Bennett competitors are scheduled to compete this year in the America's Challenge:
- Poland’s Krzysztof Zapart (POL-2 in the Gordon Bennett) is the runner-up in the last three America’s Challenge races. For the second time this year, he will fly in the America's Challenge with the USA's Andy Cayton.
- Nine-time Gordon Bennett Champion Vincent Leys of France (FRA-1), will team up with Eric Decellieres (FRA-2). Both are competing in the America's Challenge for the first time.
- Austrian pilot Christian Wagner (AUT-1) will also fly in his first America’s Challenge.
America’s Challenge alumni competing in the Gordon Bennett this year include:
- 2017 America’s Challenge winners and record holders Laurent Sciboz and Nicolas Tieche (SUI-1)
- Multiple Gordon Bennett winners Kurt Frieden and Pascal Witpraechtiger (SUI-2)
- Max Krebs and Walter Gschwendtner (SUI-3).
- America’s Challenge 2014 champions Angel Aguirre and Anulfo Gonzalez Redondo (ESP-1)
- Four-time Gordon Bennett Champion Willi Eimers – veteran of many America’s Challenge races – is competing with his son Sebastian (GER-3)
- Benni Eimers, who competed in the 2017 America’s Challenge is flying in the Gordon Bennett with Willi’s longtime flying partner Matthias Zenge (GER-2).
- Last year’s Gordon Bennett Champion, Mateuz Rekas (POL-1), flew in the America’s Challenge with Krzysztof Zapart in 2014 and finished second.
- Austria’s Gerald Sturzlinger (AUT-1) has flown from Albuquerque in both the America’s Challenge and in the Gordon Bennett and finished second in the 2008 Gordon Bennett.
During the launch of the Gordon Bennett, we spotted several other old friends directing launch operations. They include America’s Challenge launchmaster Thomas Hora from Germany, who has also flown in the America’s Challenge as a competitor. Also, a big hello to France’s Benoit Pelard and Benoit Peterle, who will be headed to Albuquerque soon to fly in their third America’s Challenge.
We wish all of the competitors in the Gordon Bennett safe flights and the best of luck. You can follow the progress of the Gordon Bennett here.
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