Šonka makes podium in Japan

The Czech pilot finally hits his stride in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship

Czech pilot Martin Šonka took the third place in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Chiba, Japan.

This was his best showing so far this season, as he experienced technical problems in the previous two races that cost him dearly. Still, a penalty cost him an even better finish.

He improved his overall standing in the eight-race season to fourth place, jumping up one position.

Australian pilot Matt Ball won the race, and US pilot Michael Goulian was second.

This was Šonka's third consecutive podium finish in Japan, and he needed the good score to stay competitive in the season. Lat year, he finished the season in overall second place.

In the opening Round of 14 at Chiba, he defeated Spanish pilot Juan Velarde. The latter pilot still advanced to the next round as the fastest loser.

The big news from the Round of 14 was that Japanese pilot Yoshihide Muroya failed to advance to the Round of Eight due to exceeding the maximum G and getting disqualified. Muroya had changed his plane's tail just hours before the race. He won the overall season last year, so such a loss so early was a surprise.

In the Round of Eight, Šonka beat French pilot Mika Brageot to advance to the Final Four.

In that race, Šonka had a two-second penalty at Gate 7 for an incorrect level, and saw his chances for a win disappear. His time was still good enough for third place, and without the penalty would have been the second-fastest time.

“After the startling season, we are glad to be on the podium. It was a very challenging race and we have to value the result. On the other hand, I cannot be 100 percent satisfied because there was a mistake in the final that cost us some points,” he said.

Šonka earned nine points for his third-place result, and is now in fourth place with 19 points, the same amount as Muroya.

Hall and Goulian both have 36 points overall, some 17 points ahead of the closest competition.

“The lead is quite large and it will not be easy to catch the leaders. Today, however, we have shown that we can equal them. The goal for the season is to fly consistently and not make unnecessary mistakes, as I have just done today in the final four. We'll surely try to catch them,” Šonka said.

The championship is now to Budapest, where Šonka is waiting for the home environment. “We are already looking forward to it. Many Czech fans always come to Hungary and he has news that they are also going this year. It is a responsibility and there is a certain pressure, but also joy and great honor when you see so many Czech flags in those crowds. Certainly, we will want to have good results. Even before the race, all the engine cylinders are waiting to be replaced, which should also help us to win again,” he said.

Šonka had hoped to replace the cylinders before the race in Cannes, France, but the parts were held up in customs. It was not feasible to modify the plane before sending it to Japan, either.

Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein finished ninth in Japan, just failing to get out of the Round of 14 and into the Round of Eight. He is in 12th place overall

The race in Budapest will be on June 23 and 24.

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

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