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Sonka Staying Grounded despite Red-Hot Climb to Red Bull Air Race Lead Entering IMS

Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic became only the fourth pilot in Red Bull Air Race history to win three races in a row when he took the top step of the podium at the sixth stop of the eight-race season Sept. 15-16 in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. The feat also launched him to the top of the World Championship standings as he heads into the next round, Oct. 6-7 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mike Mangold of the United States, Hannes Arch of Germany and Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain are the only other pilots to achieve a Red Bull Air Race hat-trick, and the trio share six title wins among them. So Šonka, who is on the hunt for his first season crown after finishing as the runner-up in 2017, has joined an elite group.

After this win, Šonka now sits atop the championship leaderboard. He is six points clear of Australia’s Matt Hall in second and nine points ahead of America’s Michael Goulian with just two races to go. Šonka was in this position after six races last year and lost the title in the final run of the season against Yoshi Muroya at Indianapolis, so he knows the pain of defeat. But his mindset seems calmer this season, even after being asked about winning three races on the bounce.

“It’s a big thing for us, and we’re super happy,” Šonka said. “We enjoyed the race, and every pilot flew really well. It was a tight race that was nice for the spectators.”

Czech pilot Šonka and his Red Bull team have endured an uneven season so far. They began with disqualifications in the first two races and came back stronger, particularly enjoying this most recent triumph.

“Some races I don't like to watch again when I'm back home, but this one will be one of the races where I will sit down and watch with my family,” Šonka said. “Especially the Final 4 as it was so tight – it was amazing.”

Šonka edged reigning World Champion and 2017 Indianapolis winner Muroya of Japan by a scant .036 of a second in the Final 4, with Hall third, just .083 of a second behind Sonka in a barnburner of a finish in Austria.

With Šonka leading the points just as he was in 2017 before Muroya snatched victory in the closing minutes of the season at IMS, the former Czech Air Force pilot has taken that hard lesson to heart.

“I learned that anything can happen in the Red Bull Air Race, especially in the heat of the moment,” Šonka said. “There are three pilots in the running this year, and we're so close. So I know that before the final heat of the season, it's too early to think of winning the World Championship.

"There are still 30 points on the table, and we want to enjoy every race and concentrate on the next flight that's in front of us. We'll see how the season ends up.”

Grab a seat for the next race, Oct. 6-7 at IMS, by visiting IMS.com and see if Šonka can become the first pilot in Red Bull Air Race history to win four races in a row.

 
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