The difficulty of defending the title

Becoming the World Champion is tough, defending the crown is tougher

In the history of the Red Bull Air Race only one pilot has successfully defended the World Championship title and that was 19-time race winner Paul Bonhomme when he took the top spot in 2009 and then again in 2010.

Bonhomme mentions that his mindset has always been that once the clock ticks over to the new year, it’s time to reset and start again. You can’t focus on the past; you have to forget what happened and look ahead.

Pilots have come close. After Hannes Arch won in 2008 he came second for the following three seasons. And Bonhomme struggled in 2014 when the series returned and he finished third.

The season after Nigel Lamb became the World Champion he finished seventh. Matthias Dolderer, the 2016 World Champion was also seventh the following year.

Yoshihide Muroya, who took his title in 2017 with four race wins, could only follow up last year with two second place podiums and finished fifth overall.

So now it’s Martin Sonka’s turn – the current World Champion also collected four race wins in his 2018 title-winning season, so it’s clearly one of the hardest things to do. How will Sonka focus on retaining the trophy?

“I’m trying not to think about it, to be honest,” he said. Although judging by the media attention around the Czech pilot, people aren’t going to let him forget about it in a hurry. He and his team are clearly trying to focus on this weekend’s season opener in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m happy that the winter break is over and that we’re back racing. The only thing I’m concentrating on is flying – thinking about defending the title is just a distraction,” he explained. So after one of the closest finishes in the sport’s history it must be hard to forget. “There were so many great experiences last year – especially to win, but we have to throw it away and go again. It’s like a drug – you want it again!” Sonka concluded.

Martin Sonka will begin his title defence in today’s Qualifying – where for the first time since 2010, World Championship points are up for grabs – and you can watch the action live HERE at 16:00 local (12:00UTC).

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