Sonka soars to victory in opening Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi

The 10th season of the official World Championship started with its anniversary 75th race

Martin Šonka won his first and his country's first Red Bull Air Race at the season opener in Abu Dhabi (see video below). The Czech endured a hit and miss 2016, which included three DQ’s, but he took an early lead in the 2017 season finishing 1.027 seconds ahead of Juan Velarde.

The Spaniard achieved his first podium finish in the process as he pipped Canadian Pete McLeod by 1.493 seconds. It was a memorable start to the 75th anniversary Red Bull Air Race and Sonka was understandably overjoyed at the win.

"It's a surreal feeling, a dream come true,” said Šonka.

“All the flights today I managed to fly exactly according to plan, cleanly, without unnecessary mistakes. The plane worked great and everything just came together perfectly.”

“I am very happy for the team and for the fans, who have kept their fingers crossed. It is hard now to describe exactly what is going on in me, especially after last season.”

“We’ve taken a step in the right direction; we’ve managed to fly consistently and mostly error-free. We know that it is only the beginning of the season but it's a dream start to it” Šonka added.

McLeod was first up fly and set the pace for the Final 4. He flew at a time of 54.632s and while he was visibly happy he probably knew it wasn’t enough for first place. Up next was Sonka and his excellent time of 53.139 put him in first with world champion Matthias Dolderer set to fly next.

Dolderer’s time of 53.227 meant he was 0.088 seconds slower than Šonka, which would've been enough for him to finish second, but an error in Gate 14 for incorrect flying level gave him a two second penalty and pushed him down the standings. Velarde was last up knowing exactly what time was needed to reach the podium and his superb flight wasn’t enough to beat deserved winner Šonka but enough to make history for the Spaniard.

Next to come for Šonka is a trip to the USA as the Red Bull Air Race continues in San Diego on April 15-16. You can read a full preview for the Red Bull Air Race here on Prague TV.

Red Bull Air Race
Martin Šonka

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