Šonka comes home in triumph

The Czech pilot brought home the Red Bull Air Race World Championship trophy

Czech pilot Martin Šonka was in Prague with his trophy from winning the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

After an uncertain start to the season, he won four of the last five races in the eight-race season.

He was particularly happy to bring the trophy home during the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

“I am a huge patriot of the Czech Republic so it is a very special moment for me of course. I am very proud for winning, for success and for having it in this anniversary year. It makes it 10 times stronger emotionally,” Šonka said.

The final race in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, which clinched the title was memorable, but along the way, the other races also made an impression.

“Every race was somehow special. Vienna Neustadt had all the Czech fans and all the support and the atmosphere. Budapest is always a fantastic venue because of the place where the track is built and, again, a lot of Czech fans. It was like having a race in the Czech Republic because next to the river on both sides there were mainly Czech fans,” he said.

The support did not go unnoticed by his rival pilots.

“When I was in the car in front of the spectators, Czechs were everywhere. Matthias Dolderer from Germany said, ‘Where are the Germans?’ So the support during these races was incredible. Cannes, again, just the place and the atmosphere was beautiful,” he said.

Cannes was the second race in the season, and it took place before new pistons were installed on the plane. He came in eighth place, and it looked like it was going to be a tough season. The setback didn’t make him lose hope though.

“I never thought, ‘Now the title is gone.’ I just was thinking how stupid it was to lose points because of our mistake. We didn’t check something, so we just threw away the points we were fighting for in the Round of Eight, and then we were disqualified in the final four. It was very frustrating but we never gave up,” he said. The disqualification was due to exceeding the RPM limit.

“My thoughts were that last year I was the leader from the very beginning of the season. This year will be a totally different story. Now it will be even more fun and more interesting to fight to be on the top again,” he said. Last season Šonka came in second place, and the competition came down to the wire. If he had come in second instead of fourth in the final race he could have won that season as well.

While he gets a boost from fan support, there is no home race so far in the Red Bull Air Race Championship. That may change, but it won’t be soon.

“There is definitely interest from the organizer side to have a race here in the Czech Republic, but there are many things that have to be fulfilled to have a race. The venue has to fits all the regulations including local regulation. The organizer must like the place. And the most important unfortunately is the money; who will pay for the race. Definitely, I think we will have the race here. The question is when, and I think it won’t be sooner than in three years,” he said.

His plans now include a bit of time off, but not that much. “During December, closer to Christmas, I would like to just relax just with my family, have nice holidays with them and go to the mountains, enjoy nature and skiing,” he said.

“After two weeks of relaxing I will miss racing and I will start to think about the next season really seriously, about procedures and development and research. There will be two weeks of really relaxing, and I will aim for physical preparation. Now I feel really tired after the whole season,” he added.

The Red Bull Air Race was established in 2003. No races were held 2010–13. It is an international series of air races in which competitors navigate an obstacle course in the fastest time.

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

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