Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic celebrates his victory during the Flower Ceremony at the first stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi. (Photo-Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool)
By: Red Bull Air Race
February 13 2017
Abu Dhabi, UAE – In a remarkable start to the 2017 Red Bull Air Race season, the Czech Republic’s Martin Sonka clinched his first race win since he joined the World Championship in 2010. Rising winds that brought the racetrack alive didn’t affect Red Bull Team Sonka pilot, whose time of 53.139 blew away his opponents by more than a second. Spain’s Juan Velarde was content with his 54.166, which turned what was already Team Velarde’s first-ever appearance in the Final 4 into their first podium finish. And Canada’s Pete McLeod (Team McLeod) continued the momentum he’d showed at the end of 2016 in taking third.
After a breakout season in 2015 where he finished in fourth overall, last year was rough for Sonka, starting with a disqualification penalty in Abu Dhabi. Now, he has not only set the standard for 2017 but finds himself at the top of the World Championship leaderboard for the first time. Defending titleholder Matthias Dolderer is in fourth overall after incurring a penalty in the Final 4. With newcomers Cristian Bolton of Chile and Mikael Brageot of France earning their first World Championship points, and Australia’s Matt Hall – second in the World Championship the last two seasons – getting a cutting-edge new raceplane soon, it’s going to be a heart-stopping season.
“Except for some l mistakes during practice, the whole week went well and I couldn’t be happier,“ said a beaming Sonka, who took four race podiums in his four previous seasons of Air Racing. “I’ve finally won my first race, I feel good in my raceplane, and this of course gives me confidence for the future. This was a totally different start compared to last season, and hopefully it will continue this way.”
Results Master Class Abu Dhabi:
1. Martin Šonka (CZE), 2. Juan Velarde (ESP), 3. Pete McLeod (CAN), 4. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 6. Michael Goulian (USA), 7. Cristian Bolton (CHI), 8. François Le Vot (FRA), 9. Mikaël Brageot (FRA), 10. Matt Hall (AUS), 11. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 12. Petr Kopfstein (CZE), 13. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 14. Peter Podlunšek (SLO)
World Championship Standings: Martin Šonka (CZE) 15 pts, 2. Juan Velarde (ESP) 12 pts, 3. Pete McLeod (CAN) 9 pts, 4. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 7 pts, 5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 6 pts, 6. Michael Goulian (USA) 5 pts, 7. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 4 pts, 8. François Le Vot (FRA) 3 pts, 9. Mikaël Brageot (FRA) 2 pts, 10. Matt Hall (AUS) 1 pt, 11. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 0, 12. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 0, 13. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 0, 14. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 0
Red Bull Air Race 2017 Calendar
February 10-11: Abu Dhabi, UAE
April 15-16: San Diego, USA
June 3-4: Chiba, Japan
July 1-2: Budapest, Hungary
July 22-23: Kazan, Russia
August 12-13: TBA, Europe
September 2-3: TBA, Europe
October 14-15: Indianapolis, USA
About Red Bull Air Race:
Created in 2003, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship celebrated its landmark 75th race at the 2017 season opener in Abu Dhabi. The Red Bull Air Race World Championship features the world’s best race pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes, pilots hit speeds of 370kmh while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. In 2014, the Challenger Cup was conceived to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class that vies for the World Championship.
Canadians In BOLD