From gliders, aerobatics to supersonic jet fighters. And of course..to World champion title in Red Bull Air Race! That's Martin's Sonka story in short...
MARTIN ŠONKA, PILOT
· Defending Red Bull Air Race World Champion
· First pilot to win the title for the Czech Republic
· Named among top 10 Czech sportsmen for 2018
Date of Birth: 26 March 1978
First Race: 2010
Race Team: Red Bull Team Šonka
Raceplane: Edge 540 V3
Martin Šonka is the reigning Red Bull Air Race World Champion. In 2018, the pilot from Sezimovo Ústí claimed his first overall crown, and the first for the Czech Republic, in a gripping title battle. If Šonka can deliver another outstanding campaign this season, he could become only the second pilot in history to clinch the sport’s highest honor two years in a row.
Šonka began flying gliders and parachute jumping at age 17. As a pilot in the Czech Air Force, he flew a supersonic jet fighter, the JAS-39 Gripen, in the 211th Tactical Squadron and was a member of the prestigious Czech Air Force display team flying the L-159 ALCA. He also holds a master’s degree from the Military Academy and the University of Pardubice.
Šonka’s aerobatics career started with gliders and then powered aircraft. Since joining the Czech aerobatic team in 2005, his achievements include European overall Vice Champion in the Unlimited category, two-time World Freestyle Vice Champion, three consecutive European Freestyle Championships, and eight Unlimited and seven Freestyle Championship wins at Czech Nationals.
Šonka’s fan base extends around the world, and he puts that popularity to work as an advocate for disadvantaged children. His accomplishments have been recognized with numerous honors including being named among the Top 10 Czech Sportsmen of 2018 and awarded the republic’s 2016 Person of the Year in Aviation Sport.
Šonka was fourth in the 2015 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, and he accelerated to a new level in 2017, capturing his career-first race win in Abu Dhabi and taking another victory in Porto, Portugal. Šonka flew into the season finale in the title lead, only to see the crown slip away in his final run. While he was on the World Championship podium for the first time with second place overall, finishing just four points off the top step only made him hungrier.
As 2018 opened, it seemed as though Šonka might stay hungry due to technical disqualifications at the first two stops. But by summer’s end he had managed the rare feat of winning three races in a row, and despite a 10th place finish at the penultimate stop, a masterful triumph in the Fort Worth finale gave him the World Championship at last.
“It was an amazing and very tough season – my biggest sporting achievement,” Šonka stated. “I’m so proud of my team, and together we’ll work harder than ever to defend the title in 2019.”
Red Bull Air Race World Championship: Seven race wins – 1st place Budapest, Kazan, Wiener Neustadt, Fort Worth 2018; Abu Dhabi and Porto 2017; 2nd Chiba 2016 and Rovinj 2015; 3rd Chiba 2018, Chiba and Lausitzring 2017, Budapest 2015 and Spielberg 2014; overall – 2nd 2017, 9th 2016, 4th 2015, 8th 2014, 14th 2010
Other: European Aerobatic Vice Champion, two-time Vice-World Aerobatic Champion and World Bronze Medalist in Freestyle; three-time European Aerobatic Champion in Freestyle; seven-timeUnlimited Aerobatic Champion and seven-timeFreestyle Aerobatic Champion in the Czech National Aerobatic Championships; Czech Republic’s 2016 Person of the Year in Aviation Sport; Czech Republic’s 2018 Top 10 Sportsmen of the Year