Red Bull Competition Heats Up

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Up until now, this year’s Red Bull Air Races had been dominated by the competition between Australia’s Matt Hall and U.S. favorite Michael Goulian—but at the latest race, in Budapest, Martin Sonka, from the Czech Republic, took the top spot. Sonka won three races last year, and took second place overall in the race series, but his team has faced ongoing challenges, according to Red Bull, coping with tough penalties and technical troubles. Now, with 34 points to Goulian’s 43 and Hall’s 45, one more race win would put him in the lead for the World Championship. The next race is set for Kazan, Russia, on Aug. 25-26.

Sonka, who has been competing since 2010, flew a supersonic fighter in the Czech air force, and has won aerobatic championships. But the Air Race, he says, is the peak of his flying career. “There’s nothing comparable—extreme maneuvering, extreme speed, incredible precision, the pylon 10 centimeters away from your wingtip—the whole sport is just beautiful.” After the Russia race, the competition moves on to Wiener Neustadt, Austria, Sept. 15-16, and Indianapolis, USA, Oct. 6-7. The final race, at a venue to be announced, will be held in November.

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