The America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race was founded by Mark Sullivan, former Balloon Fiesta President and recipient of the Montgolfier Diplome (one of ballooning's highest honors). Sullivan, a renowned competitor in all of the major gas ballooning events, saw the need for America to be identified with the world's most prestigious ballooning sport. Since the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta had already hosted two world renowned gas balloon races, the 37th Coupe Aèronautique Gordon Bennett in 1993 and the 8th World Gas Balloon Championship in 1994, Sullivan considered it only appropriate that his home town, the birthplace of the world's largest ballooning event, to be the point of inauguration.
An accomplished gas balloon pilot and competitor in the world's oldest gas ballooning event, the Gordon Bennett Cup, Sullivan decided to fashion the race after it. The rules are simple. The team who goes the farthest distance wins. But unlike the Gordon Bennett, the America's Challenge is open to all countries with no limit on the number of entries per country.
With the cooperation and participation of members of the world's best gas balloon teams, Mark Sullivan inaugurated the event during the 1995 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Under a moonlit sky, 13 teams representing 5 countries flew through the first night, reporting spectacular views back to the race officials. By the second night all had landed safely, with the American team of Richard Abruzzo and David Melton claiming victory... a fitting conclusion to the first international gas balloon race originated in America and last gas balloon race established in the 20th century.