CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER SIMON PAGENAUD WINS IN EDMONTON FOR FIRST ATLANTIC VICTORY EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 23, 2006) -- It certainly wasn't the first time that a Champ Car race weekend ended with a Frenchman atop the Victory Podium, but this...
CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER SIMON PAGENAUD WINS IN EDMONTON FOR FIRST ATLANTIC VICTORY
EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 23, 2006) -- It certainly wasn't the first time that a Champ Car race weekend ended with a Frenchman atop the Victory Podium, but this one had a different look and feel.
This time, instead of Champ Car World Series defending champion and points leader Sebastien Bourdais hoisting the winner's trophy while the national anthem of France played to a packed house, it was Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda leader Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) celebrating a dramatic victory Sunday in Edmonton.
Pagenaud, the 22-year-old native of Montmorillon, France, took advantage of late-race accident by polesitter Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) to claim his first Atlantic victory. The win at the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix Presented by The Brick Atlantic race (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 29) also enabled the Team Australia rookie sensation to extend his lead in the series championship standings and the race for the $2 million champion's Champ Car bonus.
Racing in front of a crowd of nearly 64,000 fans as the final race of the day at Edmonton's City Centre Airport, the 23-car Atlantic field put on quite a show for the sun-baked faithful on a 100-degree day in the beautiful Canadian city. Matos, who established a new qualifying lap record while winning his second Atlantic pole on Saturday, led the field from a standing start at the 1.973-mile JAGflo Speedway airport road course.
While Matos enjoyed a strong start and immediately began to open up a lead on Pagenaud, who started second, third-place starter Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) didn't enjoy a good launch. The 17-year-old son of former Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal fell back several spots at the start before starting to find his groove.
With several battles for position going on throughout the field, Pagenaud began to put pressure on Matos at the front midway through the 36-lap race. While Rahal went on the attack, first passing Germany's Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) for fourth place and then American Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman Wachs Racing) for third, Matos started clicking off very fast laps to try and keep Pagenaud in his rearview mirror.
After Pagenaud established a new Atlantic race record of 1:05.647 (108.200 mph) with the fastest lap of the race on Lap 24, the battle for first place began to get interesting. It still looked as if Matos would hold on for his first series victory, but with eight laps remaining, the Brazilian Sierra Sierra Enterprises rookie suffered heartbreak. He hit the Turn 12 wall, damaging his front and rear suspension and the damage forced him out of the race.
Pagenaud was there to pounce when the opportunity presented itself as he took command of the race. The protege of Bourdais, the back-to-back Champ Car title-holder, resembled his mentor as he cruised to his first trip to Victory Circle, winning by 10.508 seconds at an average speed of 101.691 mph. The finish represented the fourth podium and seventh top-five result of the season for the former World Series by Renault racer. With the win, Pagenaud now boasts a 187-point total on the season and now leads the series standings by 18 points over Wirth, who sits second.
Rahal claimed second place for his fourth top-three result of his impressive rookie season. The series leader in victories with three, Sunday's result marked the first time that Rahal finished among the top three when he wasn't the winner of the race. Rahal remains third in the title chase, now 24 points behind Pagenaud.
For the second year in a row, Wirth brought home a third-place finish for his fifth podium of 2006.
Wirth's Forsythe Racing stablemate, Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK/Layer 7), scored his second-best series finish with a fourth-place result. Condor Motorsports rookie Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons/Landtran Systems) equaled his best Atlantic finish as he crossed the stripe in fifth place.
Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) solidified his fourth place championship standing with his sixth top-10 result of the season. He made a couple of nice moves late in the race to claim sixth place. For the third consecutive race, Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman Wachs Racing) was seventh, equaling his best series result.
Great Britain's Tim Bridgman (#2 Epson) of Epson Team Jensen scored his best Atlantic result in eighth place, while Colin Fleming (#14 Esoles/King Taco) looked strong in his Atlantic debut, seizing ninth place for Gelles Racing after starting in 13th position. Winner of Round 7 in Toronto, American Robbie Pecorari (#28 Western Union/USA Today/Gelles Racing) rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Edmonton's favorite racing son, Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/The Spirit of Edmonton) of PR1 Motorsports claimed a bonus championship point and the Konica Minolta Most Improved Driver award as he bettered his position by nine spots from start to finish to earn 14th place.
The Atlantic competitors swing right back into action next weekend at the Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow, July 28-30 on the streets of San Jose. To learn more and to watch all of this season's races on demand, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.
ATLANTIC RACE NOTES
Sunday's race was completed in 41:54.492 -- a new Atlantic record for a 36-lap race at Edmonton.
There was only one caution flag in the race and that came on the first lap when the car of Leonardo Maia (#7 Layer 7/INDECK) stalled on the standing start grid.
In his first race for the Canadian-based Bite Racing team, David Martinez (#4 Speedway Motors/Days Inn/Spinnakers) brought the squad its best result of the season in 12th place.
Quotes from the top three drivers follow:
Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia:
"I couldn't really pass Matos. I was trying and I was damaging my front tires. So, I backed up a little bit and I set the fastest lap at this time. I tried to push him a little bit more and he made this mistake. I was not expecting this mistake at this time, but it was good for me. I was able to go faster when he was not in front of me. My car was the strongest this weekend and I wanted to win because it's not every weekend you can have this kind of car.
(On Matos' accident)
I didn't think about winning because I didn't want to screw up. I just told myself to keep going. The car was great, so I did it. I was lucky this time, what can I say?"
Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing:
"I'm not quite sure what happened on the start. My last couple were fairly good, so I just stuck to the same procedure. Things change and that's the beauty of standing starts, they're always different. I have to say, this entire weekend, it's been fairly difficult for my guys, but they put together a great car. I don't think we had the speed of Simon Pagenaud's car to win, but definitely took advantage of the opportunities we got. When it comes down to championship points, that's what we have to do. Obviously, we would like to be winning races and gaining points, but there are several races to come. I think we've been the strongest on consistency on the street courses and thank God we've got some street races coming. I'm happy with the result today.
(On the track)
The nice thing about airport circuits is that they're so wide. You can always get inside someone if you need to and there's room for them to go or you to go if it doesn't work. Certainly today I was a lot quicker in Turn 9. I just had to go in deep and hold out. It was difficult for me to run consistently behind them. Once I got Andreas Wirth, I moved forward to Joe D'Agostino and coming out of the front straightaway, I knew I had to get the job done right then. I broke really late even though I was wide, but he went wider and it worked."
Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) of Forsythe Championship Racing:
(On his day)
"My warm-up was good, the car was great. I don't know why the accident happened. The rear snapped and I lost it and if you are off-line, there's nothing you can do. I am happy they were able to fix the car because it was heavily damaged. They got it together and the car felt good in the race. I think Graham Rahal and I are happy to give one win to Simon Pagenaud now (laughing), but there are still a few races left. We were not up to speed today. I could maybe have stayed with Graham Rahal, but I was unfortunate in the traffic. I lost more and more time and at the end I just focused on holding on to my position and the points.
(On the track) and finishing third for the second straight year.)
I don't like it because I always finish third (laughing). It's always great to finish on the podium, but I'm looking forward to doing better than P3 in Edmonton."
A quote from the winner of the Most Improved Award Presented by Konica/Minolta follows:
Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports:
(On his back injury)
"It's pretty tight right now. I started feeling it about halfway through the race. The last five laps, I looked in my mirror and saw that I had a gap. I was really struggling to re-focus after these guys got by and lapped me. But, I made it through and I was able to do some consistent times for the first two thirds of the race.
(On where he is in his recovery)
I guess I'll know more when I wake up tomorrow, if I can get out of bed. It was great to complete the race and hopefully this will make me stronger for San Jose. I made some good gains from Friday to Saturday. I'm just looking for constant improvement for the rest of the year."
A quote from polesitter Raphael Matos, who surrendered the lead on Lap 29 after making contact with the wall:
Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises:
"I was trying to keep the same pace all race long. Simon Pagenaud and I were pushing and for a long time we had the same times. But, then I was better in traffic. I don't know what happened. I got in to the marbles. I hit the wall, hit the front and back suspension and that was the end of my race."