Martin Šonka makes final four in Lausitz, Germany

Red Bull Air Race had its final event in Europe for 2016

It was a busy weekend for Czech pilot Martin Šonka, who took fourth place at Lausitz, Germany, in the last European event of this year's Red Bull Air Race. In the overall standings he moved from eighth to sixth place. The second Czech pilot in the race, Petr Kopfstein, showed that he is continuing to improve. He flew the second fastest time in one of the practice sessions and ended up 11th in the race. Australian pilot Matt Hall won the race at Lausitz, followed by Matthias Dolderer of Germany and Pete McLeod of Canada. The next race will be in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Oct. 1–2, followed by the final race of the season at Las Vegas on Oct. 15–16.

Šonka had a difficult time at first. He exceeded the speed limit for his engine in the qualifying round, and a result of the rule violation he was put into the 14th and last position. Due to this, in the first round he flew against Nigel Lamb instead of Juan Velarde.

“Well, that wasn't a nice moment. We had technical problems with the telemetry and indeed it seems that we actually exceeded the speed limit. So the disqualification was warranted. The beginning of the day was not the best,” Šonka said at that start of the race.

In the duel with Lamb, Šonka made a mistake and got a two-second penalty for improperly passing one of the gates. Lamb, the 2014 World Champion, eventually also made a bad pass and it evened out the penalties. Šonka was then able to beat Lamb in the round of 14 and progress to the round of eight, where he faced Michael Goulian.

“Nigel made the same mistake I did, and it saved us. Against American pilot Goulien I flew probably the best flight of the entire weekend here, but unfortunately, in the final I could not repeat it. I made two mistakes that slowed the plane down. I pushed too hard at the pylon. I took fourth place in the end, but I have mixed feelings about the position. Especially since I really blew it myself,” Šonka said. “I'm always saying that the race plane flies well and the team is working well, then I find a way to make another mistake that I haven't done before.”

Disappointment and hope describe the weekend for Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein in Lausitz. In Saturday's practice, he flew the second-best time. Unfortunately, he was unable to duplicate it in Sunday's race. In the round of 14 he flew against two-time World Champion Kirby Chambliss of the US, and didn't advance to the round of eight.

“Saturday told me that I can already measure up to the top. The time in the third practice would have been enough for second place in the final four. That is a conclusion that we can take from Lausitz to the United States,” Kopfstein said.

He is new to the Master Class, after having competed in the Challenger Cup for two seasons. At the next race in Indianapolis he hopes to finally break into the round of eight and earn more points in the overall championship ranking. “We'll just try to focus on our best lines, our best flying for the last two races and get more experience,” he said.

"In this season, although it has been extremely challenging due to weather fluctuations, we want to prove that at least we can beat the second half of the starting list,” Kopfstein said of Team Spielberg, which he flies with.

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is an official World Championship, accredited by the FAI, the World Air Sports Federation.

14 pilots are competing in the Master Class category in eight races across the globe for the title of 2016 Red Bull Air Race World Champion. The objective is to navigate an aerial racetrack featuring air-filled pylons in the fastest possible time, incurring as few penalties as possible. Pilots can win World Championship points at each race and the pilot with the most points after the last race of the season becomes the Red Bull Air Race World Champion, according to the race's website. The race began in Abu Dhabi in March.

Red Bull Air Race
Martin Šonka
Petr Kopfstein

Red Bull Air Race 2016 - Lausitzring, Germany - pictures by Prague.TV, Living Like a Local!

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