Edmonton: Saturday qualifying notes

RAPHAEL MATOS SHOWS SPEED IN EDMONTON, WINNING SECOND CAREER ATLANTIC POLE POSITION EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 22, 2006) -- Lady Luck hasn't smiled often on Raphael Matos ( ...

RAPHAEL MATOS SHOWS SPEED IN EDMONTON, WINNING SECOND CAREER ATLANTIC POLE POSITION

EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 22, 2006) -- Lady Luck hasn't smiled often on Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) in his rookie season in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. Saturday, it was Sir Speed that was on the young Brazilian's side as he snatched his second career Atlantic pole by leading the final round of qualifying for Sunday's West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix Presented by The Brick Atlantic race (tape-delayed on SPEED at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 29).

Matos, the talented 24-year-old Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer, set aside his several frustrating results this season and showed his all out speed on the 1.973-mile JAGflo Speedway road circuit constructed at City Centre Airport. After leading the first practice session of the weekend at Edmonton and finishing fourth in first-round qualifying on Friday, Matos scorched a top time of 1:05.333 (108.717 mph) on his 13th of 18 laps in today's 30-minute qualifying session. With 10 minutes remaining in qualifying after the impressive lap hit the scoreboard, several others tried their best to knock Matos off the pole, but they weren't successful. As the checkered flag flew to bring an end to flag-free qualifying, Matos secured a new Atlantic track record at Edmonton and his first pole since Round 2 at Houston.

The result could signal a change of fortunes for the Belo, Horizonte, Brazil native who now calls Miami, Florida home. After finishing on the podium in the season-opening race at Long Beach, Matos was on his way to his first series win in Houston when he and Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) got together in the closing laps of the race. The same two drivers also made contact while battling for the lead at Toronto in Round 7. Despite running consistently among the top drivers all season long in the Atlantic Championship, Matos entered this weekend ranked eighth in the title chase. With a strong start to Round 8 this weekend, he hopes to improve his standing in the point standings tomorrow as he continues to pursue his first series victory.

Rahal also enjoyed a good performance on Saturday. After finishing fifth in the first round of qualifying, the 17-year-old son of three-time Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal, worked with his Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team to find some speed overnight. Rahal posted the second-fastest lap of the weekend at 1:05.340 (108.705 mph) to clinch his sixth top-three start in eight races this season. The talented teen will line up third in Sunday's race as series leader Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) locked up the second starting spot on Friday after leading provisional qualifying.

Pagenaud, the series leader who will take a 10-point lead over his next-closest championship pursuer into Sunday's event, also performed well in final qualifying. The French rookie clocked a fast time of 1:05.346 (108.695 mph) as he secured his sixth front-row starting position of the season. Pagenaud will also be seeking his first series win on Sunday.

Germany's Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar), who sits second in the title chase behind Pagenaud, checked in fourth in Saturday's qualifying with a lap of 1:05.441 (108.537 mph).

Wirth's Forsythe Championship Racing teammate, 16-year-old Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK/Layer 7), scored his second-best Atlantic qualifying performance. Philippe owned a top lap of 1:05.612 (108.255 mph) and will start fifth at Edmonton. Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports qualified among the top six for the sixth time this season. The California series sophomore was sixth in the qualifying results with a time of 1:05.617 (108.246 mph).

American Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman Wachs Racing) continued his recent improvement and earned his best starting position of his young Atlantic career as he carded the seventh-fastest lap of the day at 1:05.648 (108.195 mph).

Toronto native James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK), currently ranked fifth in the Atlantic standings, emerged as the top qualifying Canadian. The Forsythe Racing rookie recorded a time of 1:05.687 (108.131 mph) to slot in eighth in the order. Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons/Landtran Systems) of Condor Motorsports was ninth at 1:05.739 (108.045 mph), while British racer Tim Bridgman (#2 Epson) completed the top 10 with a lap of 1:05.831 (107.894 mph).

For the fourth time this season, the Atlantic Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Yokohama cars will stage a standing start in Sunday's race at JAGflo Speedway. The field will launch at 4 p.m. ET and the race is scheduled for 36 laps or 50 minutes. The event marks the first time this season that the Atlantic machines will race after the stars of the Champ Car World Series. The Champ Car race will get the green flag Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Follow all of this weekend's Atlantic racing from Edmonton through the Live Timing link and watch all of this season's races on demand at www.champcaratlantic.com.

ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES

With just .13 of-a-second separating the top three qualifiers, it marked the closest qualifying result of the season among the top trio of Atlantic competitors.

The top 15 drivers in the 23-car Atlantic field were separated by less than one second in final-round qualifying.

All 23 series drivers topped current Champ Car driver Charles Zwolsman's mark of 1:07.628 (105.028 mph) -- the time established last season as the Atlantic qualifying record entering this weekend's racing.

Local racer Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/The Spirit of Edmonton) of Edmonton was 23rd in qualifying at 1:07.333 (105.488 mph) as the PR1 Motorsports racer continues to try and recover from a back injury suffered in Round 1 at Long Beach.

Video highlights of Sunday's Atlantic race will be included on the Champ Car satellite video uplink feed. Racing action and interviews with the top finishers from the Atlantic Championship will be featured on the feed, scheduled for Sunday, July 23 from 6-6:30 p.m. ET. The satellite coordinates from the uplink are: KU-Band (ANALOG), AMC 6, Transponder: K-22, D/L Frequency:12140 Horizontal and Audio: 6.2 6.8.

Quotes from the top three qualifying drivers follow:

Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises:

"We've been confident since the first session. We kept working on the car, changing things. I believe we have a really good race car. It's really consistent. I was expecting a little bit more on my second set of tires. I don't think we improved a lot compared to the first set . But, I think we have the most consistent car out there.

(On being frustrated with some of his results this season) It's had it's ups and downs, especially after Cleveland, the second race we had a DNF. In Toronto, I crashed with Graham. Sierra Sierra has been working so hard and I really wanted to get the results for them."

Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia:

"Practice this morning was really good. We had a fantastic car. It was good this afternoon We set a good time, but we didn't pick up the speed I was expecting on the new tires. I was not very lucky today, but I think we have a good car and we'll see for the race.

(On why he didn't stay out at the end of the qualifying session) I didn't have enough fuel to finish, so I came back to the pits. (On the start tomorrow) I think we've always done a pretty good standing start and now I will try to attack as much as I can to win the race."

Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing:

"We've struggled a bit this weekend. My guys have done a great job trying to get the car right. We've got a bit of work to do. We have a consistent race car, but to get the speed out of it, we need to make a couple of adjustments. We came out of the first practice yesterday and even though we were fifth, it wasn't satisfying. It was hard for us to make a huge adjustment coming in to qualifying without knowing where we were at. Overnight we made another big jump and we finally closed the gap to the quick guys and now we're right there."

Quotes from the two Canadian drivers follow:

Toronto native James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) of Forsythe Championship Racing qualified eighth:

"We had a pretty big change in practice, so we had to go back to what we were running yesterday. We were a little behind. The first run went well, we made a few changes and felt confident for the new tire run. My first run on new tires ended up being my quickest, on the second and third laps, I caught traffic. On these tires, you only have about three laps to get it done, so after that I ran really consistent times exactly where my qualifying time was. We know we have a good racecar. It's unfortunate. We're eighth and only three tenths off the leaders."

Edmonton native Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports qualified 23rd:

"Most of my gains were this morning. I don't quite have the hang of this qualifying, everyone seems to make their gains in qualifying. But, I'm happy I'm still improving. Three tenths is a pretty good improvement over this morning, but I'm going to have to find a little bit more tomorrow."

-ccws/atl

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Jonathan Bomarito , Danilo Dirani , Andreas Wirth , Simon Pagenaud , James Hinchcliffe , Joe D'Agostino , Mike Forest
Teams Conquest Racing