Raphael Matos Shows Atlantics Speed in Portland, Earns Top-Six Result with Broken Wing PORTLAND, Ore., June 19, 2006 -- Raphael Matos, a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil now living in Miami, Fla., showed the speed this weekend at Portland ...
Raphael Matos Shows Atlantics Speed in Portland, Earns Top-Six Result with Broken Wing
PORTLAND, Ore., June 19, 2006 -- Raphael Matos, a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil now living in Miami, Fla., showed the speed this weekend at Portland International Raceway which has made him one of the top, young drivers in the motorsports today. He entered the Trinity Carpet 100k at the Grand Prix of Portland looking to recapture the momentum that he enjoyed early in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda season. While not standing on the top step of the podium, the 2005 Star Mazda Series Champion did impress with his speed and his racecraft. He leaves the fourth round of the Series with a sixth-place finish driving the No. 6 ProWorks/Sierra Sierra Enterprises Mazda.
The question remains "What if?" for Matos, known better as Rafa, following another strong showing. He led eight laps on the 1.964 mile course after an impressive pass for first on a lap 16 restart. However, he lost the lead on the lap 23 restart when the bracket which holds the front wing to the chassis broke. With little or no front downforce, Matos was still able to hold onto second-place for several laps. He would eventually fall deeper into the top-ten fighting the handling of the disabled car.
"The car was definitely really good all weekend," said Matos. "After the re-start on the 16th lap I was able to open-up a two second gap in two laps. I was keeping my head down and working on the gap when the front wing bracket broke. So, I had no downforce. My engineer, Gerald [Tyler], calculated it and he said, with the wing as it was, that it was like having no wing at all. It was awful driving the car. It was pretty amazing and pretty lucky we still finished sixth. For the championship it was very valuable. It was a good race. Every race but Mexico we were the quickest car out there. So, it is kind of frustrating but we know we've had a good car every race."
The weekend got off to a strong start for the Sierra Sierra Enterprises team. Matos led first round practice convincingly with a lap of one minute, 5.329 seconds. He ran a close second in second practice session behind the wheel of the No. 6 ProWorks car bettering his time by 4/10ths of a second. He would qualify third on Saturday, June 17th with a lap of 1:04.939 and, later in the day, set the fastest time in the final warm-up for the race.
While not the result that Matos and Sierra Sierra team manager Richard Raeder had hoped for, it does start to rebuild the momentum that the rookie driver had early in the year. Matos qualified and finished second in his first Atlantic Series race at Long Beach, Calif. in April. He followed that by winning his first career pole in the series at Houston in mid-May. Monterey, Mexico has been the frustration point for Matos. A 23rd-place finish there dropped him to ninth in driver points prior to this weekend's event. He moves up to eighth in points, just seven points out of fifth-place.
Rafa now turns his attention to the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2006 Atlantic Championship. Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport will play host to a double-header weekend on June 24th and 25th.
A tape delay broadcast of the Trinity Carpet 100k at the Grand Prix of Portland can be seen on SPEED Channel at 4 PM (ET), Saturday, June 24. A re-airing of the race can be seen on SPEED, Wednesday, June 28th at 3 PM (ET). Live Timing and Scoring and news from the Champ Car Atlantic Series can be found at www.ChampCarAtlantic.com.