IndyCar Winner Hearn Announces First Driver for 2004 Team LAS VEGAS, March 12, 2004 -- Open wheel racing standout Richie Hearn announced today the signing of Raphael Matos as the first of three Hearn Motorsports' drivers for the 2004 Pro Formula...
IndyCar Winner Hearn Announces First Driver for 2004 Team
LAS VEGAS, March 12, 2004 -- Open wheel racing standout Richie Hearn announced today the signing of Raphael Matos as the first of three Hearn Motorsports' drivers for the 2004 Pro Formula Mazda Series. Matos, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, will pilot Hearn's first foray into team ownership starting with the second Pro Formula Mazda Series event of the season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 26. Matos, 23 years old and living in Miami, is the 2003 Formula Dodge National Champion. He came to the United States to further his racing career in 2002 winning the Formula Dodge National Runoff Shootout and taking Skip Barber Race Series' Rookie of the Year honors. Prior to coming to the States, Matos had a string of impressive results in Brazil including three titles in the Minas Gerais State Kart Championship and two in the Belo Horizonte City Kart Championship. He was runner-up in the Brazilian Kart Championship and Sao Paulo State Kart Championship as well before moving to automobiles and winning the hotly contested Chevrolet Formula Junior Series in Brazil in 2001.
Hearn, the 1996 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series winner at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), announced his race team earlier this season and has opened his race shop on the grounds of LVMS. While far from retired as a driver, Hearn, a native Californian now living in Henderson, Nevada, has turned his attention towards bringing-up talented drivers who share his drive and commitment for open wheel success. Those characteristics earned Hearn not only the IRL win but also four Indianapolis 500 starts, a 2003 IndyCar pole position, 59 career CART green flags, the 1995 Toyota Atlantics championship, 1994 Atlantics' "Rookie of the Year" award and over $2 million in career earnings. The longstanding Pro Formula Mazda Series will run in conjunction with the American Le Mans Series in nine of the ten races this season beginning with next week's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The tenth event will support the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series at Phoenix International Raceway.
Richie Hearn, team owner/manager (about signing Matos for 2004): "I think bringing in a talent like Raphael is a great start for Hearn Motorsports. I'm excited having somebody that has already won a championship driving for us. For Raphael to trust his future to me means a lot. We are working to put together a championship effort. I know we are missing the first race due to getting started late and car availability, but Raphael and I are expecting to run for the championship. That is our goal and I think we have the pieces in place to do it."
(about becoming a team owner): "I want to pass on my knowledge to younger drivers; to help them make a career in auto racing. When I made the decision to start a team, I looked at all the options of where to go. I think the Star Mazda Series is the best stepping stone coming out of karts for a driver to move-up. So, this is where we decided to start our team. The new car is very nice, the series is well run and it offers a lot of return for what you invest in it. Again, it has what we are looking for for our team."
Raphael Matos, driver (about signing to drive for Hearn Motorsports): "I'm really excited about racing in the Star Mazda Series with Richie Hearn. When the Barber Dodge Series ended I had no plans. A friend introduced me to Richie and we got to talking. Everything that worked for me, worked for him. Even though we are missing the first race we are very serious about the rest of the season. We'll be getting the new cars right after Sebring. We are planning five or six days of testing to get ready for the second race. I think we are going to make a good team. We just need a little bit of time. I'm very excited about being with Richie Hearn. I want to be together with Richie for the future, not just this year."
(about racing in the Pro Formula Mazda Series): "I'm looking forward to the championship. The Star Mazda Series has a great car and TV package and we run with the ALMS. So I am very happy to be with the Star Mazda Series. I came to the US three years ago and raced in Skip Barber Formula Dodge. I won that championship to race in the National Championship last year. I won that last year to race in the Star Mazda this year. So, each year I have progressed and Skip Barber has helped me do that. If it weren't for Skip Barber I wouldn't be racing in the United States."
Gary Rodrigues, Pro Formula Mazda Series, president (about having Hearn Motorsports join the series): "It is an honor to have Richie Hearn choose to bring his team to The Star Mazda Series. We know his team will be a first class organization, which combined with Richie's reputation in the racing community, can only add to the recognition and reputation of all those competing for the North American Championship. Raphael Matos further enriches an already talent-rich pool of future racing stars. We can't wait to see him join the fray."
For more on Hearn Motorsports and its 2004 Pro Formula Mazda Series' effort please visit www.richiehearn.com. To learn about Raphael Matos, visit his bilingual site at www.rafamatos.com. For information on the Star Mazda Series, please visit www.starmazda.com.