14 Srp 2015

Soaring Sonka ready to roll in Ascot from career-high 4th place

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ASCOT, United Kingdom – Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic has turned into the giant killer of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship after he disposed of red-hot Matt Hall of Australia in their thrilling head-to-heat battle in the Round of 8 at the last stop in Budapest. The former Czech Air Force fighter pilot has impressively jumped up in the overall standings from 13th place to 4th place with back-to-back podiums in the last two races — second in Rovinj, Croatia and third in Budapest.

„Actually, we’ve been quite fast the whole season but in the first two races I made mistakes that hurt,“ said Sonka, who has never been as high as fourth place in the world’s fastest motorsport series before. He now has the honor of parking his hangar on the tarmac of the Race Airport in the fourth position near the Racecourse. „I spoiled the first two races with mistakes.“

He got hit with an incorrect flying level at Abu Dhabi and then was defeated by local hero Yoshihide Muroya of Japan in their head-to-head battle in Chiba, where Muroya flew a course record time. „It was difficult to beat him because he flew the course record and I pushed too hard and got a penalty there too,“ said Sonka, of his Round of 14 ouster in Japan.

Sonka calmly pulled off the most sensational upset this season by clinically defeating Hall in their Round of 8 battle in Budapest after the Australian had won Qualifying and all three training sessions with impressive flying in hot conditions. Hall was the heavy favorite to win the race after posting dominating times in every time session before the race, but ended up fifth.

„I just did what works best for me – I don’t think about the opponent,“ said Sonka, when asked how he managed to stop the virtually unbeatable Hall in Budapest. „I just try not to care about my opponent or the track and it worked.“

Sonka, who is in only his third season in the high-speed, low-altitude race, was clearly enjoying having his hangar moved up from near the bottom of the 14-pilot field to closer to the top. But he said he is still far from satisfied with fourth place even though he had never been higher than sixth place overall before. He was ninth here at Ascot last year.

„The only guy happy with his position here is the one at the top in first place,“ he said, pointing over to the hangar spot reserved for the championship leader Paul Bonhomme of Britain. „Paul is the only one satisfied with his position. All the guys behind him aren’t. It’s nice to be in fourth place overall for the time being but until we’re up there at the top we won’t be satisfied.“

In the Red Bull Air Race, which is the official world championship of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world’s top pilots hit speeds of 370 km/h while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate as precisely as possible through a low-level slalom track marked by 25-metre high air-filled pylons.