Red Bull Air Race season starting

Czech pilots Martin Šonka and Petr Kopfstein will go head to head for the first time

The new season of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship starts this weekend at Abu Dhabi.

The city is hosting the race for the 11th time.

There are two Czech pilots in the race. Martin Šonka finished last season in second place, his best showing since he began in the Red Bull championship in 2010. Petr Kopfstein came in fifth place in the 2017 season, after being 14th in 2016.

The two will be going head to head for the first time in the opening Round of 14, making it possible that one of the Czech pilots will eliminate the other at the beginning of the race. The Round of 14 is followed by the Round of Eight and a Final Four.

They joked about the possibility previously at a press conference before the season started, and that has become a reality in the first of eight races around the world that will make up the new season.

Šonka said he was not satisfied with the results of the qualifying rounds. “The track is very fast here in Abu Dhabi, and it is easy here to cross the maximum permitted 12 G limit, which happened to us repeatedly and we were definitely not the only ones. The qualifying flights were perhaps too conservative, and so the time was slower,” Šonka said.

“Despite all our efforts we still have a considerable weight handicap, and it's hard to think of reaching any track records. We have to figure out what we're gonna do because that's one of the key things in the air race.”

The qualification round was won by German pilot Matthias Dolderer with a track record time of 52,795. about a second and a half better than Šonka’s 54.323 and Kopfstein’s 54.336.

“Matthias flew well; we have to look at how he did it. But seriously, the team is waiting to analyze [the qualification round] and we will definitely find a way to improve the time. … That's what we talked about with the press before the season start, and I think Petr [Kopfstein] feels the same. You have to concentrate on your performance to get your best time. Anything else is wrong and it will not help you,” he said. He called the possibility that one of the two Czech pilots would be eliminated right away “a pity for Czech fans.”

Dolderer set his best time with his first run and pushed even harder in his second run, but that saw him break the 12G limit and he was given a DNF (did not finish) and he was told to RTB (return to base). His first time was enough to take the top spot.

American pilot Michael Goulian posted a time of 53.392, more than half a second slower than Dolderer, but still enough to see him secure second place.

Last year’s World Champion, Japanese pilot Yoshihide Muroya, was looking to grab the top spot, but at the halfway point his race plane had lost too much energy and he had to settle for third.

Fourth was French pilot Mika Brageot with a new look for his race plan. He showed more confidence and flew smoothly.

Australian pilot Matt Hall came in last. He received a DNF in his first round, meaning he was unable to set a time and will fly first in the Round of 14 against Dolderer.

With the new racing rules, there were four over-Gs in the qualifying round and three DNFs for exceeding the 12G limit. 

For more visit also:
Red Bull Air Race
Martin Šonka
Petr Kopfstein

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