Raphael Matos Triumphant at Montreal - Captures Fourth Straight Event June 11, 2005. Montreal, Canada. Raphael Matos, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, earned his fourth consecutive victory of the season this afternoon in Round Four of the Star Mazda...
Raphael Matos Triumphant at Montreal - Captures Fourth Straight Event
June 11, 2005. Montreal, Canada. Raphael Matos, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, earned his fourth consecutive victory of the season this afternoon in Round Four of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, held at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit as part of the Formula One Grand Prix of Canada weekend activities. Matos, driving the Ocean Tomo Racing Mazda edged out second place finisher Graham Rahal, of New Albany, Ohio, by 2.775 seconds, while Rahal would lead his Andersen Walko Racing teammate Robbie Pecorari, of Aston, Pennsylvania, across the finish line to complete the podium.
For the second consecutive race Matos would lead every lap, and put on a powerhouse display to maintain his stranglehold on the top step of the podium. "It is a tremendous feeling to win on this circuit in front of these amazing fans," Matos said. "I had my work cut out for me this race as Scott Jenkins, Graham Rahal and Robbie Pecorari were all running fast as well. At the start Scott was looking to take the lead into the first corner but I was able to hang on, and then on the restart after the safety car period Graham had a strong run, but the Ocean Tomo car worked perfectly."
As Matos was looking to put some space on the field the battle for the second spot was intense with Rahal, James Hinchcliffe and Pecorari all looking to lead the pack chasing Matos. Hinchcliffe, driving on his home soil for AIM Autosport, held onto the position early but Rahal wasn't to be denied and once through worked to close the gap and fend off the challengers. "The Andersen Walko Racing team gave me a great car and after taking myself out of the podium battle at Mid-Ohio it feels good to come here and earn my second podium of the season," Rahal commented. "The biggest challenge of the weekend was handling the lapped traffic. It seemed that I would always catch the traffic in the corners while Raphael had passed them on the straights so I'd have to work hard to regain the lost time."
Pecorari, a rookie in the championship like Rahal, put in another veteran performance to earn his second straight podium visit in the SAI Hydraulics Mazda. "The lapped traffic was a real challenge out there but it was great to be racing with Graham as we work together on the team and know that we will race each other hard but clean," Pecorari said. "The chemistry on the team has helped as we've worked on closing the gap to Raphael and we keep getting closer."
While Rahal and Pecorari were dicing for second Jenkins was battling his way to a fourth place finish, fending off challenges from Ross Smith, Mark Wilkins and Marco Andretti in the process. "It was a pretty aggressive race out there today as everyone was fighting for the positions from the start to the finish," Jenkins explained. "Rahal and I made contact with other a couple of times on the opening lap and I dropped a few places early but as the race went on my Team Bucknum Racing car was really strong. I was asking my team if we had more laps as I was gaining on people but we ran out of laps."
Rounding out the top five would be Marco Andretti in the Vonage MJ Motorsports Mazda. Andretti, grandson to 1978 Formula One World Driving Champion Mario Andretti, would set the fast lap of the race as he worked his way up from the eleventh spot on the grid.
Two Canadian drivers, Mark Wilkins and Brandon Thomas, would deliver some spectacular performances in front of their countrymen. Both driving for the AIM Autosport team, Wilkins would be the highest finishing Canadian driver, moving up from 14th on the grid in his Trizec Canada Mazda. Thomas, in the Western Union Mazda, had to be the busiest driver of the race working his way from 39th place on the opening lap to finish in 10th place. "I always do well when I'm racing in Canada, these fans are nuts about racing and I'm nuts about racing so it works out," Thomas reasoned. "My mechanics and engineer gave me a great car that had lots of traction coming out onto these long straights which really helped me move up the field."
Forty-two drivers took to the track for the 26-lap event, which was interrupted by one brief full-course caution period to remove the cars of Luis Schiavo and CR Crews III from an unsafe position after Schiavo made contact with the outside wall exiting the first chicane, collecting Crews in the aftermath.
Through four rounds of the championship Matos stretches his championship lead with 178 points ahead of Rahal with 132 points, Pecorari with 131 points and Jenkins with 129 points. In Expert Series competition, for drivers between the ages of 30-44, Micky Gilbert has the lead with 67 points, while Brian Thienes moves into second with 60 points. In the Masters Series, for drivers aged 45 and older, Doug Peterson won the class for the second straight race but John Pew maintains the points lead with 64 points to Petersons 60 points.
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear now prepares for it's only oval race of the season at Pikes Peak International Raceway for Round Five of the championship on July 2-3. Round Four from Montreal will be televised on Speed Channel on July 3rd at 11:00 AM Eastern Time.