Press Release: The Winners are France 1
Toggenburg (Switzerland)/Spain: After a flight time of 69 hours and two minutes Team France 1, the 17th and last remaining competitor in the Gordon Bennett Race 2012 has landed safely. Sébastien Rolland‘s and Vincent Leÿs‘ odyssey came to an end in southern Spain, north of Seville. They landed a straight-line distance of 1620 kilometres from the start in the Swiss village of Ebnat-Kappel. The Swiss team of Team SUI-1 of Kurt Frieden und Pascal Witpraechtiger landed just 18 kilometres behind the French team and thus achieved a well-deserved second place in this prestigious gas balloon race.
The last hours of the race were especially exciting. The two teams SUI-1 and FRA-1 that were still in the air fought a head-to-head duel – at least over a distance. The Swiss team of Kurt Frieden und Pascal Witpraechtiger had a decisive lead when they landed their gas balloon on Tuesday at 10.30, but this steadily melted away over the afternoon. By evening it was all over: the French trumped the Swiss distance by 18 kilometres. As darkness fell the victors of Gordon Bennett Race 2012 Sébastien Rolland und Vincent Leÿs safely landed their balloon.
Picture: FRA-1 safely landed. Sébastien Rolland (left) and Vincent Leÿs (middle). Source: Facebook.
All teams have safely landed
Competition Director Markus Haggeney and his team can look back on a successful and very professionally organised race. “It was not a simple task to thread 17 Balloons through some of the world’s busiest airspace. The cooperation in ensuring flight safety that we had from the countries involved was fantastic”. The most important fact was that all teams landed safely. The race itself was outstanding. Seven teams flew distances of over 1000 Kilometres, which speaks volumes about the level of the entrants. Markus was especially impressed by the Austrian team AUT-2. “They led the pack all the way up to their landing on Monday morning, and laid the trail for all the other balloons to follow. Because of their fantastic flight we knew that the wind speeds and directions were exactly as we had forecast. AUT-2 was in effect the Hare – and in that role they gave us great support.”
A wonderful race
In his blog Kurt Frieden was also very enthusiastic about his wonderful race. He accepted sportingly that his exceptional flight did not end with a win. SUI-1 was forced to prematurely end their flight as they were flying into a restricted flight area that required pilots to cross the area no higher than 5000 feet above sea level because of military flight tests. The team had used almost all their ballast and expecting intense thermal activity the duo Frieden and Witpraechtiger reached the reluctant decision to opt for a safe landing rather than face an uncertain and dangerous game with the thermals. After flying 1602 Kilometres the two pilots from the Thurgau district of Switzerland landed safely, late on Tuesday morning on a small hill near to Puebla del Maestre.
Prize-giving and a night glow
The 17 teams that took part in the 2012 Gordon Bennett Race must now wend their long ways by road back to the Toggenburg valley. On Friday evening at 20.30 the teams will be honoured with a public ceremony in the event marquee in Ebnat-Kappel. The evening will be rounded out by a hot-air balloon trophy competition and an atmospheric balloon night-glow once darkness has fallen. The official award of the Gordon Bennett trophy will take place the following evening at a festive awards ceremony. Further information with background and pictures about the 2012 Gordon Bennett race can be found at www.gordonbennett2012.