As we head to the third race of the 2018 season, Martin Sonka has to focus fully on Chiba and ignore the slip-ups he's had so far this season.
The Czech pilot, who finished runner up in 2017 has been disqualified in both races so far this year. He currently sits in fifth and knows it's a busy time, but realises it's now or never if he's going to try and win the title.
Another issue for Sonka is that since Cannes he's been without his raceplane, and it's taking its toll as it needs work. "For Chiba preparing without the raceplane is especially difficult because of the technical issue we had in Cannes, with the RPM regulator. As soon as we get to Japan, we have to fix that," he said. "The team is preparing as much as possible without the plane. I've been flying my aerobatic Extra aeroplane. It is the only preparation you can do for racing. I'm able to do G-training and stay G-fit. It's also good for situational awareness and selecting reference points, that will work in the track," Sonka explained.
At the last race in France, Sonka was disqualified for exceeding the RPM limit and ended up finishing eighth. It's an issue he needs to have fixed, but it's going to be tight for him and his team. "The problem with Chiba is that there will be very little time for testing before the race, I need to have the raceplane reliable and ready to go," he said. "In Cannes it was really difficult when we were told. Winning the duel with Mikey [Goulian] and then losing our place in the Final 4 was tough. But that's the sport and I was over the RPM limit for two seconds."
Sonka's team had other issues in Cannes that they were unable to fix before the race, and will now have to wait until Budapest before they can be sorted. "Our raceplane is down on power and we wanted to replace the cylinders before Cannes," he explained. "However, they were stuck in customs for a week and we were unable to replace them before the race. We won't be able to replace them before Chiba due to the time. We need to fly them for 10 test hours, so we will have to do it before Budapest. This means we'll have another race where we're down on power, but we'll do our best," he added.
So with his raceplane down on power, and two DQs, the Czech pilot is still optimistic about his season so far – and is well aware that there's plenty left to fight for. "It's still good, even with what happened. But with a little bit of luck we would've had one podium and another Final 4 finish – I can't say two podiums, because I don't know what would've happened in last round. We've not been lucky so far."
With Chiba coming up, Sonka can look ahead, he's had a lot of success in Japan, with a second place finish in 2016 and third last year. He's quietly confident about the race. "Of course to have another podium in Chiba would be great, the venue and the people are incredible. But I'm not thinking about the podium, I'm just thinking about the track and my lines," he concluded.
You can see Sonka take on the 13 other Master Class pilots in Chiba, Japan on 26-27 May, get your tickets HERE.