Czech pilot Šonka seizes Balaton pole

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In an historic first, the 14 pilots of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship took off for Qualifying in the new location of Lake Balaton, Hungary, on Saturday. At second in the overall standings, defending World Champion Martin Šonka (CZE) set a blistering track record to clinch the pole, while Juan Velarde (ESP) finished second, and Mika Brageot (FRA) delivered the third-best time. Current overall leader Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) is the man they will all be trying to beat in the race on Sunday.
 
Zamárdi, Hungary

  • As spectators watched from the public beach in the resort town of Zamárdi, Lake Balaton served up turbulent, windy conditions for the 14 pilots of the World Championship. The race at Lake Balaton is special for many reasons: It is a brand-new location in Hungary, the country known as the spiritual home of the Red Bull Air Race. The extremely technical, 4.7 km track is unfamiliar to all the pilots and offers an unusually large variety of options for finding the best line. And finally, with Muroya having won the first two races of the season, the field is desperate to stop his momentum before September’s season finale, a home race for the Japanese pilot in Chiba.
  • Velarde flew early with an impressive 58.203s that stood up to opponent after opponent until Šonka took the track, flying next-to-last. After a rough start with a penalty in the first of his two Qualifying runs, Šonka settled in and despite the bumpy conditions flew cleanly to a stunning 57.820s. Flying last, Muroya’s aggressive runs resulted in penalties that saw him slip to ninth for the day, giving Brageot his top-three result.
  • Thanks to a rule change in 2019, World Championship points are awarded to the best three finishers in Qualifying. Saturday’s Balaton Qualifying result did not change the order of the standings, but it helped Šonka close his gap behind Muroya to just six points. Twenty-five more points are on offer to the winner of the race on Sunday, meaning that with a victory Muroya has the potential to clinch the World Championship with one race to go, but his top rivals would have to help with mediocre results.
  • Šonka also claimed his first DHL Fastest Lap Award of 2019 for producing the fastest single lap among all the two-lap Qualifying runs. He is now neck-and-neck with Brageot and Muroya in the battle for the season’s DHL Fastest Lap Trophy.

Qualifying determines the head-to-head matchups for the opening round on Race Day this Sunday, 14 July:

  • As the fastest Qualifier, Šonka will go up against the slowest, Germany’s Matthias Dolderer, who as the 2016 World Champion is a potential spoiler.
  • Muroya faces one of his toughest rivals in the World Championship, Australia’s Matt Hall.
  • Velarde will take on Chile’s Cristian Bolton.
  • Brageot will be challenged by two-time titleholder Kirby Chambliss of the USA.
  • Great Britain’s Ben Murphy, who finished fourth in Qualifying, will fly against François Le Vot of France.
  • The USA’s Michael Goulian will lock horns with Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic.
  • Nicolas Ivanoff of France, currently fourth in the World Championship, will fly against Canada’s Pete McLeod.

Keep up with every moment of the the crucial Race Day action at Lake Balaton, the penultimate race of the 2019 season, at www.redbullairrace.com.

QUOTE:
Martin Šonka (CZE): “It is definitely great to win at a new location in front of so many fans. With the new rule, grabbing three points makes Qualifying even more important, but there are other hungry and fast pilots behind us, ready to grab every point they can. The track here at Lake Balaton is very interesting because it offers many trajectories, and it depends on how much risk each pilot is willing to take, as well as on the wind. It’s a game of nerves and trajectories and tacticians and pilot skills. It is just incredible to race here, and it will be a beautiful second half of the season.”

Results Master Class Qualifying, Balaton 2019: 1.Martin Šonka (CZE) 57.820, 2. Juan Velarde (ESP) 58.203, 3. Mika Brageot (FRA) 58.847, 4. Ben Murphy (GBR) 58.853, 5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 59.065, 6. Matt Hall (AUS) 59.180, 7. Michael Goulian (USA) 59.484, 8. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 59.606, 9. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 59.846, 10. Pete McLeod (CAN) 59.871, 11. François Le Vot (FRA) 1:00.105, 12. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 1:00.142, 13. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 1:00.463, 14. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 1:00.492

World Championship standings after Qualifying, Balaton 2019: 1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 53 points, 2. Martin Šonka (CZE) 47pts, 3. Matt Hall (AUS) 36 pts, 4. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 30 pts, 5. Mika Brageot (FRA) 27 pts, 6. Michael Goulian (USA) 25 pts, 7. François Le Vot (FRA) 21 pts, 8. Juan Velarde (ESP) 18 pts, 9. Ben Murphy (GBR) 15 pts, 10. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 13 pts, 11. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 13 pts, 12. Pete McLeod (CAN) 10 pts, 13. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 5 pts, 14. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 3 pts

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RED BULL AIR RACE 2019 CALENDAR
8-9 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
15-16 June: Kazan, Russia
13-14 July: Lake Balaton, Hungary
7-8 September: Chiba, Japan

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