News & Multimedia

Sonka Keeps Cool As World Championship Showdown Looms on Race Day

Martin Sonka doesn’t even want to think about the obvious, let alone discuss it.

But there’s only so much reality he can block out. Sonka, the Master Class points-leading pilot from the Czech Republic, can claim his first World Championship with a victory in the Red Bull Air Race on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sonka insists he’s just focused on flying, not on his four-point lead on Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya entering the season finale at IMS.

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do, and my team is helping me,” Sonka said of not getting caught up in the magnitude of the moment. “It’s not always very easy, but yeah, I’m trying to behave like it’s a race like any other.

“Yeah, it’s there, of course. I’m just trying to throw it away and concentrate on the flying itself.”

Sonka qualified fourth and Muroya 11th on Saturday on the 19-gate IMS course. A race winner receives 15 points, runner-up 12 points, third place nine points and fourth place seven.

That means Canadian Pete McLeod, who is seven points behind Sonka and three behind Muroya, also has a legitimate shot at winning the title. McLeod qualified fifth. Two-time American World Champion Kirby Chambliss, who has won twice this year, is 11 points back in fourth place but qualified 12th out of 14 pilots.

“The wind is going to blow, and it’s going to totally change the way we fly the track,” Chambliss said. “It will be a new day and a new race (Sunday).”

The first round of eliminations is seeded like a March Madness bracket, with the top qualifier taking on the slowest, the second qualifier against the 13th quickest and so on. That format sets up a high-stakes showdown between No. 4 qualifier Sonka and No. 11 qualifier Muroya in the first round, with both pilots’ World Championship hopes in the air.

Quickest qualifier Matt Hall is a series runner-up in each of the past two seasons. The Australian is a distant fifth in the points and can’t win the championship, but he’s been reminded about playing the role of spoiler in Sunday's early heat flights.

“I think it’s rather amusing that I’ve been thrown in the mix now,” Hall said. “They’ve all come up to me individually and asked me to knock another target out and help them on the round of four.

“In the end, I can’t do anything about that because I just get matched up against who I get matched up with and I’m going to be doing my best to fly the hardest.”

Muroya, 44, the first Asian pilot in series history, has a series-best three wins this season, including the most recent start on Sept. 17 at Lausitzring, Germany.

“This is a great location,” Muroya said. “People love their motorsports. Big chance, not small.”

His interest in flying can be traced back to watching cartoons as a kid.

“This is my life,” he said.

When Sonka was young, he built models of airplanes. He also dreamed of becoming an astronaut. That would explain why he doesn’t mind the challenge of a vertical maneuver, where the plane zooms straight up into the sky before spinning and reversing its direction in mid-air and descends toward the course.

“I like the verticals,” Sonka said. “I feel like I’m going to the moon.”

Instead of making lunar expeditions in his earlier years, he joined the Czech Air Force.

“The preparation and being used to flying low and being used to deciding in split seconds, that’s actually very similar,” said Sonka, 39.

He celebrated the first two victories of his career this season at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Porto, Portugal. Although successful, he actually concedes some “stupid” mistakes cost him points, “otherwise we would be much calmer here.”

Sonka still seems relatively calm, even when asked again about how winning a World Championship would be a dream come true.

“Yeah, of course,” he said, “but this is definitely not something I’m thinking about.”

Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship and for more information on the event weekend. Children 15 and under receive free General Admission when accompanied by an adult General Admission ticket holder.

An interactive Fan Guide for the event also is available at www.ims.com/RBARFanGuide.


Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Martin Sonka
 
Sonka Keeps Cool As World Championship Showdown Looms on Race Day
Martin Sonka doesn’t even want to think about the obvious, let alone discuss it. But there’s only so much reality he can block out. Sonka, the Master Class points-leading pilot from the Czech Republic, can claim his first World Championship with a victory in the Red Bull Air Race on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
Related Media
United Way of Central Indiana
 
IMS Partners with United Way To Support Families in Need This Holiday Season
There’s even more reason to attend the spectacular Lights at the Brickyard holiday display this year, with $5 of every admission fee on Monday evenings supporting United Way of Central Indiana.
Read More
Core Sample
 
IMS Core Sample Showcases Layers of Racing History
The recent removal of three track cores from the famed 2.5-mile oval offered a visual trip back in time as Boles and track workers inspected the various surface levels, beginning at the bottom with the paving bricks originally laid in 1909.
Read More
RBAR 2018 Date
 
Red Bull Air Race Returns to IMS Oct. 6-7, 2018
In 2018, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will make eight stops around the globe, featuring classic series destinations and exciting surprises like a premiere in Cannes – the first French race in the history of the sport. Here’s a preview.
Read More
Donald Davidson
 
Davidson Opens Window Into IMS Past During Special Q&A Session
He shies away from comparisons in popularity to some of the track’s legends, but Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson received a welcome reminder Thursday evening of the esteem with which he’s held by so many.
Read More
Legends Sale Announcement
 
Race Fans Can Start Holiday Shopping Engines, Get Great Deals Nov. 18 at IMS
Race fans can get a turbocharged start to their holiday shopping at the 2017 End of Season Sale on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with great deals available on a wide variety of IMS and INDYCAR apparel, collectibles and more.
Read More
Items 5 - 9 of 2,817
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact IMS Sales Department at (317) 492-8739 or email at hospitalitysales@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
It's Pole day on @CrownRoyal Armed Forces Weekend & we can't wait to see you! Check out details on the day: https://t.co/yKQ6Db3YRK
May 21