Sepang: Rhaphael Matos preview

Raphael Matos Returns to Cockpit of A1 Team Brasil Entry in Malaysia Young, Brazilian's Successful A1GP Debut Garners Seat for Second Time SEPANG, MALAYSIA, November 21, 2006 -- By virtue of his impressive debut in the A1 Team Brasil car at ...

Raphael Matos Returns to Cockpit of A1 Team Brasil Entry in Malaysia

Young, Brazilian's Successful A1GP Debut Garners Seat for Second Time

SEPANG, MALAYSIA, November 21, 2006 -- By virtue of his impressive debut in the A1 Team Brasil car at Beijing two weeks ago, Raphael Matos has been asked to pilot the entry in Sunday's A1GP Sepang in Malaysia. The native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, now living in Miami, Fla. USA, earned the team its first points of the 2006-2007 A1GP season. Beijing was the young, Brazilian's first, serious time in the machine that carries to colors of his homeland having only spent a limited number of laps testing the car at Silverstone several months ago. Rafa, as he is well known in his native Brazil and in the United States, had two, top-ten finishes in China impressing international racing legend and team principal/seat holder Emerson Fittipaldi (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Fittipaldi asked the young Brazilian, who will be returning for his second season on the Champ Car Atlantic Series with Sierra Sierra Enterprises in 2007, to do an encore for Round Four of the World Cup of Motorsports in Sepang.

"I am very excited to get to Malaysia," said Rafa before boarding the plane for the trip from Miami to Sepang. "I think we made a lot of progress as a team at Beijing. Everybody knows what it takes to win a race on this team. It is just putting together all the pieces and doing it. Even without having any seat time in the car we were able to run upfront pretty quickly. I think we had a good car in Silverstone in testing. Silverstone is a fast course, like Malaysia so I think we can use that this weekend."

Like Beijing's street course in Round Three of the championship, the A1GP Sepang International Circuit is a new course to Rafa. However, the similarities of the two tracks end there. The Sepang track is much wider and longer (3.44 miles/5.54 km versus 1.91 miles/3.08 km) and therefore much faster than the tight street circuit in China's capital. While initially selected to race the car at Beijing due to his strong street course results in the Atlantic Series, Rafa has shown equally impressive on longer, faster race courses. With the added seat time from Beijing, Rafa now feels more comfortable to attack at Malaysia.

"I wasn't pushing as hard as I could at Beijing," admitted Rafa. "Still, we could have had a podium finish if not for the bad luck of the pit stop. I wanted to finish that race to get as much seat time as possible. There is a lot to learn in these cars. You have to learn to use the 'push to pass' button [editor: an electronic device that allows a temporary increase in horsepower] because you only get it eight times. So you have to really pick where and when you use it. Also, the car changes a lot under a full fuel load. We only stop for tires, not fuel, so you have to have enough at the beginning to make the finish. That really changes the balance of the car from what you practice and qualifying with. The first time we had a full fuel load I thought something was wrong with the brakes. So, by the time you make the first stop your tires are gone. You have to learn to manage the tires really well so you aren't too slow at the end of the first stint or the last lap of the race. I learned a lot in China and I am ready to try it in Malaysia. I will be able to run much harder this weekend."

In order to further prepare for this weekend's event, Rafa traveled to Malaysia much earlier than he was able to travel to China. The 2005 Star Mazda Champion is currently in Sepang where he is acclimatizing himself to the time difference and different diet of the country.

"The schedule was much harder on me in China," said Rafa. "This time I am able to spend a few days in Malaysia before getting in the car. There was so much to get used to before, now I will be able to focus much more on the car and being quick right at the start."

Testing will begin on Friday, November 24, practice and qualify on Saturday with both a sprint race and a longer feature race to be held on Sunday.

-credit: www.RafaMatos.com

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Series A1GP
Drivers Emerson Fittipaldi