Czech pilots disappointed with Cannes results

The second race in the Red Bull Air Race took place in France for the first time

Both Czech pilots in the Red Bull Air Race at Cannes has disappointing finishes. The second leg of the eight-race season was held April 21–22 at the town famous for its film festival. This was the first time the Red Bull Air Race season had an event in France.

Martin Šonka of Team Šonka finished eighth due to a penalty, and after two races is in overall fifth place. Petr Kopfstein of Team Spielberg didn’t make it out of the Round of 14 and finished ninth. He is in overall 12 place out of 14 pilots.

Australian pilot Matt Hall won the Canned race and is in second place overall. American pilot Michael Goulian came in third place but leads in the overall ranking.

In an official statement, the Red Bull Air Race Race committee explained why it disqualified Šonka from the Round of Eight due to a technical infringement of the rules.

“Due to evidence found after the end of the Round of Eight in Cannes, France, on April 22, Team Šonka has been disqualified by the Race Committee for a technical infraction. He exceeded the 2950 RPM limit for 4.4 seconds. He finishes the race in eighth place,” the statement said.

Šonka said the problem was due to a failure of an automated system. “I'm very, very, very, very disappointed. It's another technical issue which has decided the race for us. This time it was the RPM. It looks like we were two seconds longer in the maximum RPM because the automatic system we have didn't react properly in the Start Gate, and therefore it was four seconds over the RPM limit. You're only allowed to be there for two seconds,” Šonka said.

“It's a technical issue we have to solve. … I’ve been competing in sports since I was five years old so I know that this is part of sport. It’s not pleasant, but I'm thinking about how we can fix the race plane rather than the emotional side of the problem,” he added.

The race started well for Šonka. The first flight was without penalty, though the plane’s system actually showed the wrong speed. “We actually flew slower than the data showed,” he said.

Šonka also faced technical issues in the season’s first race in Abu Dhabi in March, which also cost him a penalty. “After one problem was solved, the second came. We downloaded the data and found that we exceeded the maximum speed by two seconds longer than allowed. It is again a technical defect, the second time in a row and it cost a lot of points. It just cannot happen. It is hard to describe the disappointment,” he said.

Šonka says the technical issues will not be fixed before the next race in Chiba, Japan, on May 26 and 27. The replacement of the engine cylinders, which Šonka hoped to do before the Cannes race, also will not be made before Japan.

“There will be only three days there, and no test flights. … It's a very unpleasant start to the season but we have six races to go and we have to raise our heads. And above all, make sure that things like this will not happen again,” he said.

Fellow Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein didn’t face serious technical issues, but still scored low in the race.

“I didn't find the right mixture – the plane wasn't as fast as we expected. I didn't see any major mistake but maybe in the last VTM I pulled a little too soft; I think maybe that's where I lost it. So congratulations to Juan. But we are improving in every race,” he said.

Kopfstein flew against Spanish pilot Juan Velarde in the Round of 14 and was eliminated at that stage.

Velarde advanced to the Round of Eight but lost to German pilot Matthias Dolderer, who finished the race in second place.

After Japan, the race season will return to Europe for an event in Budapest on June 23–24. The season will end in November.

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Martin Šonka
Petr Kopfstein

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