Matos back on pole position in Cleveland

Raphael Matos will be starting tomorrow's Champ Car Atlantic race where he likes it: at the front of the field. The Sierra Sierra Enterprises driver took consecutive pole positions at Long Beach and Houston earlier this season, and he returned to...

Raphael Matos will be starting tomorrow's Champ Car Atlantic race where he likes it: at the front of the field. The Sierra Sierra Enterprises driver took consecutive pole positions at Long Beach and Houston earlier this season, and he returned to the top of the timesheets in Cleveland today after a two-race absence.

The 25-year-old Brazilian set the time of 1:05.405 near the end of the session, bettering his Sierra Sierra teammate James Hinchcliffe's fastest lap by a reasonably comfortable 0.140-second margin. However, a cruise to victory is by no means likely in this ultra-competitive series.

"It's going to take a lot of effort to win tomorrow," Matos explained. "First of all, I have to be very concentrated on my start. I have to make sure I get a good start. If I get a good start and if I don't make any mistakes during the race, I think it's going to be very difficult for someone to pass me."

"Hinch", meantime, had already locked in a front-row starting position -- his fifth in six races -- by the virtue of his top time in yesterday's first qualifying session, taking some pressure off the 20-year old at the closing stages of the session.

"Qualifying for me last year was a bit of a struggling point, so it's good that we've managed to step it up a notch," the young Canadian reflected. "It was touch and go between Rafa (Matos) and I. It was actually a pretty fun session in terms of that, because everybody kept raising the bar and lowering the lap times."

CJ Motorsports' Franck Perera was fast early, but in the end had to settle for a third-place starting position. The former GP2 driver, who celebrated his 23rd birthdayon Thursday, set a time 0.074 seconds off Hinchcliffe's pace on his penultimate qualifying lap, with only a thimbleful of fuel remaining in his car.

"I believed I could take the pole for today," Perera rued his result. "This morning I was first after the free practice, and I believed I could get the pole. In the beginning of the session, I was leading, but I had a ton of traffic and I was not able to find the right lap. For sure, I had to stop four laps before the end of the session like James (Hinchcliffe) did yesterday because I ran out of fuel."

Newman Wachs Racing's J.R. Hildebrand was 0.064 seconds behind Perera at the finish, and just managed to nip Jonathan Bomarito to the fourth-place starting position, bettering the PR1 Motorsports driver by less than three hundredths of a second.

Sixth and seventh were the two Conquest Racing teammates, Giacomo Ricci heading Matt Lee by five hundredths of a second. Ricci's speed was well off of that of Bomarito, though, with a gap of 0.513 seconds. Simona de Silvestro matched her season-best qualifying performance with an eighth place, getting within 0.038 seconds of Lee's time with a last-gasp qualifying lap at the end of the session.

In spite of the Cleveland airport's wide racing lines, the start -- and the possible restarts after full-course yellows -- are at the top of everyone's mind for tomorrow. With identical chassis and engines, a start is the easiest time to make a move on your competitors.

"Tomorrow is just going to be really about the start," Hinchcliffe explained. "And then, if we have some full-course cautions, restarts are going to key. I've got to try and get that holeshot. It's going to kind of be the first corner and then the rest of the race. We'll see how it ends up."

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jonathan Bomarito , James Hinchcliffe , J.R. Hildebrand , Giacomo Ricci , Franck Perera , Matt Lee
Teams Conquest Racing