Šonka qualifies fourth for Abu Dhabi

The Czech pilot missed out on early points in the new scoring system

Martin Šonka began defending his title at the Red Bull Air Race World Championship with a fourth place in qualifying round for the first race of the 2019 season, held in Abu Dhabi.

In the first round of the race on Saturday, the Round of 14, he will compete against with Cristian Bolton from Chile.

The race begins on Saturday at 11 am, and coverage can be watched online at airrace.redbull.com.

There is a new scoring system this year, and the three fastest pilots in qualifying now get points.

Šonka did well in the training flights. Officially, though the season began in qualifying, where his fourth-place finish already left him trailing. He was not so happy after landing.

“We did not get any points so I cannot be satisfied. I do not know exactly where we lost on the track, I flew both flights more or less according to the plan we have prepared. But it was not fast enough. We have to look at the data and try to find where we can save time,” he said.

Japanese pilot Yoshihide Muroya, who was champion in the 2017 season, came in first in qualifying and won three points. Canadian pilot Pete McLeod came next for two points, and American pilot Michael Goulian earned one point.

Aside from the new scoring system, there are new rules about maximum acceleration.

In 2019, a one-second Over G penalty will be incurred if a pilot reaches 11G, while reaching 12G will still result in an automatic DNF (did not fly). Races in past seasons have often been decided due to penalties, as small fractions of a second matter.

Šonka said he will try his best to adapt to the new rule. “It's a good idea to be careful to avoid penalties The key to a fast time is to get to the edge, otherwise the time is slower.

You almost feel like a race horse with legs bound. I would love to pull more, but the rules do not allow it,” he said.

Šonka acknowledges that keeping the champion title will be challenging. So far, nobody has won twice in a row since the 2009 and ’10, when Paul Bonhomme won. Nobody has won twice since the sport was reorganized in 2014.

Šonka starts his seventh season with an experienced crew. Unlike some other teams, Šonka’s team has no changes. The team coordinator remains older brother Josef Šonka.

The tactician and analyst is Petr Františ from the University of Defense. The engineer will be Lance Winter, and Ivan Krakora will provide communication and marketing.

The 2019 season has eight races, and the date and location of the next race still is not clear. The third race will be in Kazan on June 14 and 16, and then it will come close to home with a race at Budapest on July 13–14. Other races will be in Chiba, Indianapolis and Saudi Arabia. Another race in Asia still has not been announced.

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