SBRS: National Shootout at Sebring report

Raphael Matos wins Formula Dodge National Shootout. (Lakeville, CT) Raphael Matos took the Formula Dodge National Championship Shootout to secure a funded seat for the 2003 season after outperforming seven other racers at Sebring...

Raphael Matos wins Formula Dodge National Shootout.

(Lakeville, CT) Raphael Matos took the Formula Dodge National Championship Shootout to secure a funded seat for the 2003 season after outperforming seven other racers at Sebring International Raceway. The young Brazilian, who hopes someday to take the Champ Car World Series title like his hero Christiano Da Matta, outpaced all rivals in every session of the intensive two-day event. Matos has only been in the United States for eight months, but is very clear in his goals as a racer.

"I will do the Formula Dodge National Championship next year, and hopefully I can then move up to the Barber Dodge Pro Series after that, and then on up into Atlantics and then Champ cars," said an excited Matos.

Matos raced go karts for eight years in his native Brazil, and then moved up into Formula Ford and Formula Vauxhall Junior competition, proving his worth along the way by taking the Winter Championship last season. The CART Ladder System, with a clear structure for upward movement for the drivers, along with the opportunity to receive backing along the way, was a leading factor in his decision to head to the States.

"I decided to come up to the United States because I had heard about the CART ladder system, and I thought that was my best chance to make it. I don't come from a family that has a lot of money, but I want to become a professional race car driver, and I think this Skip Barber system is my best chance to do that. Winning here makes me feel like I made the right decision, since now I am in the system, and have the chance to prove myself and move up the ladder."

The competition ran for two days in variable weather in Sebring, giving the drivers a variety of conditions in which to show their stuff. Race Series Director Divina Galica, who oversaw the competition, believes that the judging panel had a clear choice of whom to select.

"All eight contenders impressed the panel of judges with their competitiveness and dedication but Rafael Matos headed the time charts in the dry and the rain which made the final selection easier than we expected," said Galica. "We hope that all the drivers took something away from their shootout experience which will stand them in good stead during their racing careers."

The Formula Dodge National Championship will release the 2003 schedule early next week and is expected to once again be comprised of eight weekends featuring two races a weekend. 2002 Formula Dodge National Champion Grant Maimen was selected as a winner in the Red Bull Formula One drivers search this winter, and will compete in Europe during the 2003 season. Scott Poirer, who won a season of racing in the Formula Dodge National Championship at the Shootout last year, took second place in the standings and will contest the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series after securing funding in the Barber-CART Shootout in December.

-cart/barber-

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