Šonka wins Red Bull Air Race Championship

Šonka wins Red Bull Air Race Championship

Czech pilot Martin Šonka dominated the last race of the Red Bull Air Race 2018 season in Fort Worth, Texas, and won the title of world champion.

He had a few difficult moments at the start of this season due to technical problems and penalties, but he picked up points in the later part of the eight-race season after he changed the pistons in his plane’s engine.

But he needed a strong showing in Fort Worth to get to the title after being eliminated early in the previous race in Indianapolis, Indiana.

His victory in Fort Worth added 15 points to his season score, giving him a total of 80 points. He won four of the season’s eight races, in Budapest, Kazan, Wiener Neustadt and Fort Worth. Australian pilot Matt Hall was second for the overall season with 75 points and American pilot Michael Goulian was third with 73 points.

“It's unreal, I cannot even describe what's happening to me now. It's an incredible mix of feelings,” Šonka said, adding that the team whole team was also quite emotional.
“We were flying well, we knew exactly how we wanted to fly, even if conditions changed," he said.

He came in second in the previous season, after coming in a disappointing fourth in that season’s final race and missing the championship by just four points.

"It's a different story than last season, and it's my biggest sporting achievement. … It was a beautiful race. I think everyone, especially the Czech spectators, enjoyed it. For the last flight, I managed to have a clear head. I heard that Matt [Hall] flew a super time and I knew I had to push harder and definitely not make a penalty or mistake, and I managed. I cannot be happier," he said.

Šonka began the Forth Worth race with a two-second penalty in the qualifying round. In the Round of 14 he beat Belgian pilot Nicolas Ivanoff, and went on to beat Michael Goulian in the round of eight.

“Mike had some technical problems after the first round, but they put the plane together. I heard he was then penalized for four seconds, so it was all about concentrating on the flight and not making a mistake,” Šonka said. Goulian had two two-second penalties for incorrect passing of gates in the Round of Eight.

In the final round, Hall flew a very fast time and got into the lead. So Šonka had to win to get the overall title. “I knew Matt was flying a fast time and that put me under pressure. … But I knew I could fly it. Eventually, I did it and I cannot even describe the feeling. It is incredible what the team did after a failed start and two technical disqualifications [earlier in the season],” he said.

“Returning to the fight for the title, winning four races out of eight overall, it's a dream. I am incredibly proud of what we have managed. … I am proud of the fact that a small country in the middle of Europe has a world champion in such a wonderful motorsport. I also want to thank our incredible fans who did not leave us after the beginning of the season and have supported us all the time in huge numbers,” he said.

Šonka had technical problems with his plane early in the season and wanted to replace the engine’s pistons before the second race in Cannes, but the parts became stuck in customs. He also couldn't get the repairs done before the next race in Chiba. Finally, the plane was upgraded for the race in Budapest, which he won. He won the next two races before having his worst showing of the season in the penultimate race in Indianapolis, scoring only one point.

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

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