Cleveland: Raphael Matos preview

Raphael Matos Sees Cleveland's Lakefront Airport as Prime Real Estate CLEVELAND, June 22, 2006 -- Raphael Matos has never been to Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. However, for the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil who now calls Miami his...

Raphael Matos Sees Cleveland's Lakefront Airport as Prime Real Estate

CLEVELAND, June 22, 2006 -- Raphael Matos has never been to Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. However, for the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil who now calls Miami his home, the track-- a longtime fixture on the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda schedule-- looks like a great location to re-launch his 2006 championship bid. Rafa, as he is most easily recognized in most open wheel paddocks, and the No. 6 ProWorks/Sierra Sierra Enterprises team land at the temporary airport circuit with a strategy to use the two event weekend to regain momentum and jump from eighth in the championship chase. The first event of The Gehl Atlantic Championship of Cleveland takes place on Saturday, June 24 (3:30 PM ET) while the second race will take the green flag on Sunday, June 25 (Noon). Practice begins on June 23 at 10:45 AM.

"This is the most important weekend of the season so far," said Matos. "If we do a really good job we could leave Cleveland second-place in the championship. You never know what is going to happen in the race and we have two races this weekend. At Portland we had the quickest car but had the nose bracket break and that cost us the lead and maybe the win. Other drivers had problems too. So, anything can happen and we could benefit from it at Cleveland."

The Atlantics championship offers 31 points to the winner of every event. When coupled with a point each for fastest qualifier per day, any driver who leads a lap, turns the fastest lap during the event and who improves the most positions from the start to the finish of the event, 36 points are feasible for a driver to collect. At Cleveland, that number doubles to a possible 72 point swing. Matos, the 2005 Star Mazda Series Champion, is currently eighth in the standings, 48 points out of the lead. The 2006 Atlantic's Championship will enter the second half of its season following Sunday's second race at Cleveland thereby stressing the importance of every point collected.

Matos has reason to have high hopes for the 2.106-mile Ohio course laid out on the runways and taxiways of the Burke Lakefront Airport. While the track is new to him, Sierra Sierra Enterprises won in dominating fashion here in 2004. Matos and the Richard Raeder-managed team led eight laps in Portland last weekend before the nose bracket failure and Matos has been very quick in recent testing in the ProWorks' Atlantics Swift chassis as well as in other open wheel cars. For his part, Matos has also been pouring over in-car camera footage to help learn the wide but bumpy track.

Matos continued; "We proved at Portland we have a good setup and we're quick. I think Cleveland will be a similar setup. We need to concentrate on those big bumps and I need to learn the track. It's a very wide track with few reference points. So, I'll take the first session to learn the track. I've been watching a lot of in-car [camera] videos and that has been really helpful. If we have a good car we'll have a great weekend. I feel once we win one race, it will be a lot easier to win after that. So, if you can win on Saturday, you have a very good chance on Sunday."

The 2003 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Champion is also eager about the return of a long-held tradition in the Champ Car Atlantic Series, the standing start. For the first time since 1998, the Atlantic Series will start both races with each Mazda-powered car stopped in formation waiting on the green flag instead of approaching the green at speed.

"We got a chance to practice our standing starts in testing," offered Matos. "Of all the cars, I was the quickest from the start to where they timed us. I have a little experience driving in five or six races in Formula Ford in Brazil where they use the standing start. If you make a mistake on a rolling start you can still draft the guy in front of you into the first turn. So, it doesn't hurt you as bad. If you make a mistake on a standing start you will pay a bigger price. The cars in front of you will gap you and the cars behind will get around. So, it is very important to get a good start."

Race One of The Gehl Atlantic Championship of Cleveland can be seen, tape-delayed, on SPEED at 4 PM (ET), July 9. Race Two will follow immediately after on SPEED. Re-airings of each show will take place on SPEED at 2 PM and 3 PM, respectively, on July 12.

A tape delay broadcast of the June 18 Trinity Carpet 100k at the Grand Prix of Portland can be seen this Saturday, June 24, on SPEED Channel at 4 PM. A re-airing of the race can be seen on SPEED, Wednesday, June 28th at 3 PM.

Live Timing and Scoring and news from the Champ Car Atlantic Series can be found at

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Skip Barber