Šonka ready for final Red Bull Air Race

The 2017 season is drawing to a close with a Czech pilot in the lead

Czech pilot Martin Šonka is in the lead of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, going into the final race in Indianapolis on Oct. 14–15. In a few days, he will know if he is the winner of the eight-race season that began in Abu Dhabi in February.

The race returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana, which has used for the championship for the first time last year. The track is home to the historic Indianapolis 500 and hosts races for Formula One and NASCAR.

“The pressure is the biggest I've ever experienced, but there is nothing I can do. That's a disadvantage when you're in first place. I'm trying not to think about it and concentrate on the race, and not to admit it's the race that everything really is all about. I will just make the best of it,” Martin Šonka said.

“You should not think about the pressure and focus on the airplane. … But as soon as the racing weekend is near, the pressure will increase,” he said.

There are plenty of mathematical options for how the Šonka can earn the title, depending on how the other pilots do. Šonka has a cumulative score of 63 points, ahead of Japanese pilot Yoshihide Muroya by four points and Canadian pilot Pete McLeod by seven points. A win is worth 15 points, while the second carries 12 and third add nine points. The numbers decrease to 10th place, which adds just one point to the score.

It's been a month since Šonka finished third in Lausitz, Germany. Since then Šonka has spent almost every day he was in the air, practicing maneuvers for the Indianapolis track. He has also spent a lot of time in a simulator and worked on his physical condition. He is trying to lose some weight before the race. “The problem is America is the land of burgers and fries. I hope to be a kilo lighter than I was in Germany. I basically have a weight of 10 kilos lower than my standard one, but on the other hand I do not want to look and feel like an old man,” he said.

Šonka's crew is also trying to lighten the airplane. “We're trying everything to make it lightweight, and get rid every gram we do not need,” Šonka said. “These are the moments when I have to think that it is such an important race. I do not want to underestimate anything. Everything must be tip top.”

The track is very similar to last year's, but with a change to one of the gates. “It's going to be a really interesting maneuver in the wind conditions, which are going to be pretty wild because of the strong side winds. It's going to be very much a matter of concentration,” he said.

Šonka knows the course from the simulator but he's looking forward to reality. “I hope the others will face problems and we will not, but it may be the other way around,” he said.

The Red Bull Air Race was established in 2003. Pilots fly individually against the clock through a slalom course of pylons or air gates. Races are usually on weekends with the first day for qualification then finals the following day.

The race was not held 2011–13 due to safety improvements and reorganization. The race resumed in 2014.

The race starts Sunday, Oct. 15, at 7 pm Central European Time and can be watched on ČT Sport from 8:30 pm or at a public viewing at Hard Rock Cafe Prague, round of 14 starts 7 pm (more info CZ)

Related articles:
Šonka third at Lausitz 18.09.2017
Martin Šonka wins Porto Red Bull Air Race 04.09.2017
Martin Šonka comes in fourth in Budapest 03.07.2017
Two Czech pilots win at Red Bull Air Race 04.06.2017
Sonka soars to victory in opening Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi 11.02.2017

Red Bull Air Race airrace.redbull.com
Martin Šonka www.martin-sonka.cz

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