Raphael Matos Takes Second in Denver Atlantic Showdown Popular Brazilian Breaks into Top-Four of Points DENVER, August 14, 2006 -- Raphael "Rafa" Matos continued his late season surge towards the top of the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car ...
Raphael Matos Takes Second in Denver Atlantic Showdown
Popular Brazilian Breaks into Top-Four of Points
DENVER, August 14, 2006 -- Raphael "Rafa" Matos continued his late season surge towards the top of the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda series standings Sunday with an impressive run to second-place in the Grand Prix of Denver Atlantic race. As a rookie in the Atlantic series, Denver was the latest in a long-line of circuits on which the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil had never competed. However, as he has done all season, he learned the street circuit layout quickly and positioned the No. 6 ProWorks/Sierra Sierra Enterprises Mazda in the position to win late in the going. It was Rafa's third podium finish of the season following a victory in San Jose, Calif. on July 30 and a second-place at the season-opening Long Beach Grand Prix in April. The runner-up spot moved Rafa to fourth in the Atlantic standings with two races remaining on the 12 race schedule. The 27 points earned in Denver brings his total to 158. He has gained six positions in the last two races and currently trails the point leader by 67 markers.
"We made a lot of improvements from the first session," said Rafa. "We completely changed the approach we had from the beginning of the week. The car was getting better and better every session. We had to change the car to find speed and, eventually, we found speed. We made another big step in the warm-up and that worked pretty good again. We learned a lot and that was very important for us. In the race, Rahal was a little faster than me on the restarts when the tires were cold. After my tires were hot we had the exact same lap times but he had a gap on me and I just couldn't catch him. We were pushing really hard the whole race. I was very pleased for the Sierra Sierra team. They did an amazing job."
Rafa, who now lives in Miami, Fla., started fourth on the grid after earning the pole position in the last two Atlantic Series events. From a stationary start, he leaped into third place at the green and immediately began challenging for second. Near the race's midpoint, the 2005 Star Mazda Series champion made a strong pass to take the second spot at the eighth turn of the 1.65-mile, nine-turn street course. The time it took to gain the spot would cost Matos a shot at his second Atlantic victory. While he pursued leader Graham Rahal in the closing stages he would fall just 1.287 seconds short at the lap 35 checkered flag. As evidence of his desire, Rafa turned his quickest lap of the race, a one minute, 7.033 second time, on the 33rd trip around the track. The time was good for third quickest race lap overall and was just off his quickest time of the weekend.
Thus far in 2006, Rafa leads the category for most times led (five), is tied for most races led (four) and is second highest in the series for most laps led (100) trailing Rahal by eight circuits. He has set the race's fastest lap once and has completed 333 of a possible 358 laps.
The Sierra Sierra Enterprises effort now travels to Montreal, Canada on August 25-27. It will be the first track of the season that Rafa has previously raced on. In 2005, on his way to the Star Mazda title, Rafa won at the 2.079-mile Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
"We learned a lot in Denver and we should be very strong for Road America and Montreal," continued Rafa. "Those are the only two tracks I have been too on the schedule before this year. We have a very good setup for high speed tracks. We feel very confident and strong for the last races."
This weekend's Grand Prix of Denver will air on the SPEED Channel at 3 PM, August 19 with a second showing on August 23, also at 3 PM.