Beijing: Raphael Matos race report

Raphael Matos A1GP Debut Yields Two Top-Seven Finishes in Beijing Earns A1 Team Brasil First Points of Season BEIJING, November 12, 2006 -- Raphael Matos, a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil now living in Miami, Florida, USA, made his A1GP ...

Raphael Matos A1GP Debut Yields Two Top-Seven Finishes in Beijing
Earns A1 Team Brasil First Points of Season

BEIJING, November 12, 2006 -- Raphael Matos, a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil now living in Miami, Florida, USA, made his A1GP World Cup of Motorsports debut this weekend in the A1GP Beijing, China with two top-seven finishes. The performance helped earn A1 Team Brasil its first points of the season moving them to 15th overall in the formula car series which pits national entries from around the world against one-another in an Olympic-style format. Matos, Rafa as he is known throughout motorsports, showed impressively making several on-track passes on the tight Beijing street course and setting the second quickest lap time during the second of the two races. In the first of the two timed events, a 20-minute sprint race, Rafa started and finished sixth. In the second race, a 50-minute event, Rafa ran as high as fifth and would finish an impressive seventh after starting sixth. He earned a total of five points for A1 Team Brasil.

Matos had only been scheduled to act as test driver in Friday's "rookie" sessions this weekend before team principal, seat holder and racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi (Sao Paulo, Brazil) asked the Champ Car Atlantic Series standout to test and race the car in China. The decision was made in large part due to Rafa's impressive performance in the street races this past season in the Atlantic Series where he drives the ProWorks Sierra Sierra Enterprises Mazda. Rafa did not disappoint. Despite having never raced in A1GP and having only limited laps in the high-powered, single-seat, formula car, Rafa was quickly within top-tier drivers in each session. However, things would not be easy for the young racer who has relied on skill and dedication, not financial backing, to move up through the ladder system of open wheel racing. Opening day on-track activities were canceled due to ongoing track issues at the first-time street circuit around Beijing's Jingkai Convention and Exhibition Centre. This added to the challenges of all the teams and drivers but especially Rafa who was looking to gain experience in the car prior to the first race.

The times set in the limited number of laps in the abbreviated opening practice, not qualifying, would set the grid for the first race. The event was punctuated by multiple and extended safety car periods that kept green flag racing conditions to a minimum. The top-six positions finished just as they started. By virtue of the sixth, Rafa secured one point for the team and placed the car sixth on the grid for the main event later in the day.

The second race would prove much more exciting than the first. From the start, Rafa stalked the fifth-place car, always keeping the leaders in sight on the 3.08 km (1.91 miles) course. He moved to a race high of fifth on lap 13. Due to the difficult passing conditions inherent in most street courses, A1 Team Brasil turned to pit stop strategy to gain positions for the green and yellow machine- the colors of Brazil. The team had planned to stop during the first yellow-flag period within the pit stop window (which opened on lap 20) but found the pit lane closed. Now split from several cars that had pitted, Rafa sat in 10th. However, keeping a clear head, Rafa and A1 Team Brasil took advantage of mistakes by other competitors moving-up progressively taking seventh at the checkered flag. The finish added four more points to A1 Team Brasil's tally for the weekend.

"Today was so much about luck with the pit stops," said Rafa following the race. "We thought the time we picked to come in would be a good idea, but it didn't work out this time. I'm very pleased for the team and we've made a lot of progress though the weekend. I really want to thank Emerson for giving me this chance and now I definitely feel we can be at the top for the next races."

Driving duties for only the first three rounds of the A1GP season have been announced by A1 Team Brasil. Evaluation of Rafa and the other three Brazilians which have driven the car this season has been ongoing. A decision on the driver lineup for the remaining ten races will be announced soon. A1GP next races in Sepang, Malaysia on November 26 and Sentul, Indonesia on December 10.

"Raphael did a fantastic job, overtook a few guys, and got the second fastest lap of the race," offered Fittipaldi. "The team also did a great job. The results are improving and we have some points now. So there are a lot of positives to take from this weekend."

For more on Rafa Matos, please visit www.RafaMatos.com.

News and further race results 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.

To learn more about Rafa's Champ Car Atlantic Series team, Sierra Sierra, log-on to www.SierraSierra.com.

We thank A1 Team Brasil for their assistance in this release.

-credit: matos motorsports

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About this article
Series A1GP
Drivers Emerson Fittipaldi , Rafa Matos