Šonka hopes for third podium finish in Japan

The Czech pilot is looking to advance in the Red Bull Air Race Championship

Czech pilot Martin Šonka is preparing for the next leg of the Red Bull Air Race Championship, to be held May 26–27 in Chiba, Japan.

Šonka hopes to move beyond the technical issues from the first two races, in Cannes and Abu Dhabi, which cost him valuable points.

He has been successful in the past two seasons in Japan, ending on the podium. And he hopes to repeat that this time.

In Abu Dhabi, Šonka was originally in third place but pushed back into fourth due to a technical issue that cost him points. In Cannes, he exceeded the maximum RPM. In a tight competition, where each point counts, these were painful losses, especially because they should have been avoided.

“It was hard to breathe. Our opponents had literally given us lots of points, and instead of scrambling for victory, we were disqualified. We failed to fly fast and consistently, which is the key to success. That makes it all the more frustrating,” Šonka said.

Air racing as a sport is evolving very quickly, and there is increasing dependence on technology. Racing planes are increasingly complex and as a result more susceptible to failure.

“That's true, but these are things you have to watch out for, and you must have them absolutely under control. There is no use in worrying about the things that we do not have much control over. We also hope that we will avoid technical defects. We need to succeed here so that our opponents can 't get further ahead,” Šonka said.

In Japan, air racing is very popular. The races are sold out, and the organizer says that during the past three seasons this spectacle was attended by over 300,000 people. Fans hang out at the hotel get the pilots' autographs and make selfies.

“It's incredible, I do not know if they're taking a vacation or how they do it. Some are standing here for a whole week from morning till evening and are constantly on watch. They're waving at us and taking photos with us; it's amazing. In addition, Yoshi [Muroya], their home pilot, has already won twice, which has helped to increase the sport's popularity. But I would not be angry if we were a little spoiled this time. Last year we could have won, but I made a mistake and it cost us the victory,” Šonka said. He came in third in Japan in 2017 and second in 2016.

He is currently fifth out of 14 pilots in the overall ranking of the championship, after two of the eight scheduled races. He finished the 2017 season in second place and had two first-place finishes in individual races that season.

Related links
Red Bull Air Race
Martin Šonka

Next Races close to Prague, Czech Republic
Budapest, Hungary June 23-24
Wiener Neustadt, Austria Sept. 15-16

Video on YouTube

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