It's been a month since Martin Sonka lifted the Red Bull Air Race World Championship trophy in Fort Worth, Texas. So after the rollercoaster ride of a season, and now the dust has settled, we checked in to see how it's been going for Red Bull Team Sonka...
The year started poorly for Sonka and his team. He was Disqualified from the Final 4 in Abu Dhabi and then DQ'd again in Cannes in the Round of 8. At race three in Chiba, he claimed his first podium of the season. From here, there was no stopping the Czech pilot. Sonka won three races in a row – becoming only the third pilot to achieve this feat in a season – after a blip in Indianapolis, Sonka was sitting in second place in the World Championship going into the Final round. In Fort Worth he powered through, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Here for the first time since becoming champion, Martin Sonka talks about what's happened since...
After the disappointment of last year and the start of this year, how did you stay focused on your goal of becoming World Champion?
MS: Last year was a huge disappointment. But without any doubt that experience helped us in the final of this season. Overall we didn't start this season very well, we had two technical DQs in first two races and that's not the way to start battle for championship. Despite this, we never stopped believing we could get to the top. As a team we had completed a couple of seasons together and all the positive and negative experiences had made us stronger. After winning the race in Budapest, with huge support from the Czech fans, the rest of the season was a ride. We were able to recover from a bad Quali session in Kazan for another victory and that was really big boost. Wiener Neustadt was spectacular again thanks to Czech fans and a close battle with Matt [Sonka and Hall were separated by just 0.083s in the Final 4]. Then we got a little bit down in Indy, but we were still aiming for the highest spot. And in Fort Worth it was a dream race with the sweetest reward in the end! I can just say it was the team that made this dream happen.
Since winning the World Championship has your life changed at all?
MS: My schedule since the last race has been pretty busy! But it's definitely a positive consequence of the result we achieved. Media are interested much more than ever before, and there is still a strong buzz which helps to introduce our beautiful sport to new people who I hope will turn to new fans. However, in the meantime we are already thinking about the new season. We need to be ready and confirm our position, and that will be demanding. I think my life will not change in general. I know what it cost to get here and after recharging the batteries we will continue to work hard. I believe we are still at the beginning of our journey.
We've seen how hard it is to retain the title or even win a race after you've become World Champion. How will you stay focused now that you've won the championship?
MS: We can see in many different sports that trying to retain the title is even harder than winning it for the first time. Everybody wants to beat the champion. It's a special motivation, that's for sure. We will have to work twice hard to be ready for this. On the other hand we're an experienced team and we need to keep our consistency, which is not easy. But I believe we can manage it.
Have you been busy at home with media commitments since winning?
MS: YES! As I mentioned before it's really busy. But it's a pleasure after this kind of result. In the end, it helps our sport and as a pilot in the Red Bull Air Race it's kind of a commitment. I'm ready anytime for this!
Are you being recognised in the street by fans more?
MS: The truth is that I have signed more autographs and posed for more photos than ever before. It's a pleasure to meet fans and hear that they cheered for us. If somebody on the street tells you that you helped create a lifetime experience for him and his family it's just an incredible feeling. I'm humble and full of respect because it's not only the pleasure it brings, but it also makes us more committed to the future not to disappoint them. So we are still staying on the ground and focused to start another season of hard work. The new season starts now...