Martin Šonka wins Porto Red Bull Air Race

The Czech pilot is in first place in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship

Czech pilot Martin Šonka reclaimed his place at the top of the leader board after a win at the Porto race in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship on Sept. 2–3. Fellow Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein came in seventh out of the 14 competing pilots.

There are just two races left in the season, so if Šonka performs well the next two times he is in position to be the champion of the season.

“I feel great. After the last three races where we got various penalties, it was simply time to fly again – and race again – and we won, so I'm really happy. The venue is incredible, and there are so many people. The fog today made it even more spectacular and I think it is one of the most beautiful races,” Šonka said after the race.

He is not counting on an easy victory for the season, though. “Of course we would like to win the title, but the others are fast, and with two races left there are still a lot of points on the table. So nothing is decided yet, and we have to wait until the end of the season.” he said.

Šonka is counting on strong support from fans in the next race, at EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany on Sept. 16 and 17. “Now it's time to celebrate a little and relax. In just 14 days, we are flying another race in Germany, and we have to get the best of it. A lot of Czech fans will come, and we will not disappoint them,” he said.

Šonka flew a perfect round in front of 600,000 people to take his second win of the season. The Czech pilot was first to fly in the Final 4, and when he crossed the finish line, he had set a time of 1:07.229 – the fastest time of the day.

Second into the track was Kirby Chambliss, trying to get his third win in a row. The American was penalized for climbing in Gate 9. After that he posted a time of 1:09.141. He came in fourth, but without that penalty he would have won. He says he did not deserve the penalty. “I don't think I was [climbing]. It was unfortunate, we were trying to go fast. Everybody is right on the edge and sometimes you get the bear, sometimes it gets you. The bear got us today,” he said.

Pete McLeod was third to fly but finished 0.113s behind Šonka for second. “It was a close race and I put down a good time. Second is great. I got the points I needed to keep moving forward in the championship. … We're still happy to smile with second, it's good,” McLeod said.

Matt Hall was last to fly in the Final 4. Just before he entered the track he heard that Kirby Chambliss had collected a penalty and knew that if he flew cleanly he would get his first podium in over a year. So the Australian didn't push too hard and finished third “We've had a rough year, ever since we found a crack in the MXS's fuel tank. It's been an uphill battle. … We said at the start of the year that the plan was to just build up throughout the year. I was happy to be in the Final 4 and it was good to be able to back off and secure a podium. … And now we can move forward,” Hall said.

The result now sees Martin Šonka four points clear at the top of the standings on 54 points. Pete McLeod is second on 50 and Kirby Chambliss has now dropped to third on 47 points.

Petr Kopfstein didn't make in into the final four. He came in seventh, and was eliminated after the Round of 8. “The track is really easy, not technical, and we like more difficult tracks where you have to think about it more. Here the faster race-planes were in front, but we also made some little mistakes, maybe pulling slightly late. We're not happy with the result, but that's life. … We want to fly clean and consistent, that was the aim at the beginning and that's what we are fulfilling,” he said.

Kopfstein is now fifth in the overall rankings for the season and hopes to finish in that position.

After the race in Lausitz (Sept. 16-17), the season for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship ends at Indianapolis, Indiana on Oct. 14–15.

Red Bull Air Race
Martin Šonka
Petr Kopfstein

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