Raphael Matos Looks to Continue Atlantics Push in Montreal
Sierra Sierra Driver Eager to Return to Familiar Surroundings
MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, August 23, 2006 -- Professional auto racing is often a momentum sport. Once you find a rhythm, the results flow much easier. Raphael Matos, Rafa as he has come to be known, has found his rhythm in recent rounds of the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda Series. The native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, who lives in Miami, has been on a roll since leading the most laps at the eighth round of the 12 race Atlantic championship in the No. 6 ProWorks/Sierra Sierra Enterprises Mazda at Edmonton here in Canada. With one flag-to-flag victory, at San Jose, Calif., and a second-place at the most recent race in the streets of Denver since Edmonton, Rafa enters The Champ Car Grand Prix de Montreal Atlantic Race with a real push on to move into the top-three of the season-long points battle. The 2005 Star Mazda Series Champion has high hopes for Sunday's penultimate round of the series returning for only the second time all year to a track he has working knowledge of. Rafa won here at the 2.709-mile, 12-turn Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve last season in the Star Mazda Series.
"I feel that since Portland, which was the only track that I knew, we have learned a lot about the car" said Rafa. "We have proved that at the last three races. We were really quick; we won a race and poles. The fact that we have learned a lot and that I know the track will be a big asset. We can start working on the race car as far as setup goes earlier in the weekend. I don't have to learn the track and see if the setup is close. The only tracks we raced on this year I have raced before are Portland, Road America and Montreal. Everything else was new to me. We were using the first session every weekend just to get used to the track; the level of grip, the corners. At the same time, I am also using a brand new car, and brand new engine. It's been lots of learning. It is a lot of work not only because I am a rookie but because it is a brand new car so the team is learning too. We started each session as close to the setup as we can based on last year's car but we usually end-up quite a bit different. For the rest of the season I know what I am expecting to feel because I know the race track already and I know the car."
The young Brazilian debuted at the Montreal circuit in 2005 with a nearly three second victory over Graham Rahal. Rafa qualified on the pole position and led every lap on his way to the victory and, eventually, the Series title.
"The race track itself is a medium speed race track," analyzed Rafa. "There are some big straight-aways but the corners are 70-80 miles per hour. You can pretty much run a road course setup. That is where we will start. It's a fairly fast track. It is a track I like very much. Since the first time I ran at Montreal I have been very comfortable. It is a very good atmosphere. I like Montreal, it is a very special place."
Rafa, who stands second in the season-long most laps led category, is the last of four drivers who still has a mathematical opportunity to win the 2006 Atlantic title. Rafa is currently ranked fourth in the season-long standings having closed six spots in the last three events. He is 67 points out of the championship lead.
"I'm really looking forward to trying to win the last two poles and the couple of races," commented Rafa. "As far as championship results; it all depends on the other guys' results. I still feel that we can finish in the top three but all I can do is do my best and try and win the last two poles and last two races. I feel we have a strong car for these last two races. The Sierra Sierra team has been doing a great job but it is not entirely in our hands now."