Beijing: Raphael Matos debut preview

Raphael Matos to Make A1GP Debut with A1 Team Brasil in Beijing Young, Brazilian Open Wheel Standout Tests Daytona Prototype, Will Race A1GP BEIJING, November 8, 2006 -- Raphael Matos, Rafa as he is best known, will make his A1GP World Cup...

Raphael Matos to Make A1GP Debut with A1 Team Brasil in Beijing

Young, Brazilian Open Wheel Standout Tests Daytona Prototype, Will Race A1GP

BEIJING, November 8, 2006 -- Raphael Matos, Rafa as he is best known, will make his A1GP World Cup of Motorsports debut this weekend in the A1GP Beijing, China. The young, Brazilian open-wheel standout was originally slated to act as test driver for the Brazilian national team at the third-round of the international, formula car series, but was moved up to race driver earlier this week. The native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, who now lives in Miami, Fla. USA, will test on Friday, November 10, practice and qualify on Saturday and race in both the 15 lap sprint race and 50 lap feature event on Sunday in Beijing. Rafa also debuted in a Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype on Monday of this week testing for Howard Motorsports at Daytona International Raceway. While his time was limited, he showed well in the closed-cockpit sports car and has set a goal to race in the world famous Rolex 24 At Daytona in late January.

"The A1GP race is definitely my biggest goal right now," enthused Rafa. "From what I have been talking with my engineer, I believe we have a pretty good baseline in the car. We definitely need to be quick right out of the box if we want to be quick all weekend long. Being a rookie I get to run on Friday. I think it is going to be really good for me. I am going to get good seat time in the car. I was quite surprised when I was called to be the first driver. I am very happy for the chance. I want to thank Emerson Fittipaldi and the whole crew for the opportunity. I believe we are going to have a really good weekend."

The Beijing track fits well into Rafa's skill set. At 3.08 km (1.91 miles) in length, the course is a temporary layout on the streets of the Jingkai Convention and Exhibition Centre in China's capital city. Street circuits have become a specialty of the 2003 Skip Barber National Champion. He won three pole positions (Houston, Edmonton and San Jose) and one race (San Jose) in his rookie season in the Atlantic Series, all on street courses.

"This is a really good opportunity for me," Rafa continued. "It is a street course which I think fits perfectly with my driving style. I learned a lot from the Atlantic Series this year about how to race on a street course. I am still learning the car because I only got 45 minutes at Silverstone so there is a lot to learn. But, the full weekend will give me the time in the car. The circuit looks very interesting, with some very long straights and tight turns and a hairpin like Long Beach. I am looking forward to racing it."

The event marks not only the first time that Rafa will race in the Far East but his first time in A1GP. In September, Rafa, who recently signed to return to the Champ Car Atlantic Series for a second season with Sierra Sierra Enterprises, tested the A1 Team Brasil entry at Silverstone in England. Despite having never seen the track in person, and having never driven an A1GP car, Rafa showed himself well for Brazilian racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi (Sao Paulo, Brazil) who is the principal and seat holder for the team. Rafa covered 50 laps and was invited to join the team in Beijing as test driver. His skills on street circuits encouraged A1 Team Brasil to select him to race in Sunday's event.

"It makes me very proud to represent my country in one of the highest level championships in the world," said Rafa when announced as a driver for A1Team Brasil. "It is a unique feeling for sure. You are always looking to be competitive all the time but it is a little bit different when you are representing your country."

Matos got the good news about Beijing after stepping from another race car this week. The 2005 Star Mazda Series Champion was invited to test the Pontiac Crawford Daytona Prototype of Howard Motorsports in pre-season testing. Rafa joined sports car racing veterans Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger and turned a number of laps on Monday in the open test for the Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway. It was Matos' first time behind the wheel of a car in the top-class of the Rolex Sports Car Series and his first time at the track. Rafa previously competed for the Mazda factory team at the 12 Hours of Sebring in an open-top American Le Mans Series LMP2 entry in his only other sports car experience.

"Driving the Howard Motorsports Daytona Prototype was a lot of fun," commented Rafa. "I got to work together with Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger and I learned a lot from them. The car is quite different than what I am used to. It is much heavier than the Atlantic car. I was also trying to get used to the track because I had never been to Daytona. It was definitely a good experience. I hope I can test with them again at Homestead and, hopefully, we can work together again in the 24 Hours."

Live Timing and Scoring and news from the A1GP Beijing can be found at www.A1GP.com while A1 Team Brasil news and updates are available at www.Brasil.A1GP.com.

-credit: www.RafaMatos.com.

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About this article
Series A1GP
Drivers Andy Wallace , Butch Leitzinger , Emerson Fittipaldi , Skip Barber