Kazan known as the ‘Sports Capital of Russia’ drew packed crowds to the banks of the Kazanka River on 15 and 16 June to watch the world’s best pilots push themselves to their absolute limits.
Japanese pilot Yoshihide Muroya, and Martin Sonka are the ones to watch. They have built a rivalry across seven seasons. This year, the two World Champions are the top favourites and their rivalry makes for electric viewing.
Last year Sonka, the Czech hero was on a streak, winning the race in Kazan and facing down a fierce Final 4 challenge from Muroya in Wiener Neustadt to clinch the top stop of the podium by just 0.036. At the season finale, Sonka confidently claimed a maiden title for the Czech Republic, while Muroya finished fifth overall.
“Yoshi will be back next year with a vengeance, and it’ll be great to watch,” predicted three-time World Champion Paul Bonhomme. He could not have been more right. Muroya and Sonka have intensified their rivalry in the condensed four-race 2019 season, and they have been one-two in the standings since the opener in the Emirates, where the duo delivered the tightest winning margin in Red Bull Air Race history as Muroya nipped Sonka by 0.003s.
Then, just a few weeks ago in Kazan, it was again Muroya topping the podium, with Sonka third. Including points that each have won in Qualifying sessions, Muroya now has a nine-point advantage over the Czech star.
However, a massive 28 points is up for grabs at each of the two remaining stops. So will it be Muroya or Sonka claiming the crown at the season finale? Pilots like Matt Hall, a three-time runner-up in the World Championship who at third overall is poised and ready to strike, would tell you it’s neither one of them.
See Yoshihide Muroya, Martin Sonka, Matt Hall and the rest of the 14-pilots-field fight for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at the next stop in Lake Balaton, Hungary on 13-14 July.
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