MATOS LEADS THIRD STRAIGHT CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC QUALIFYING SESSION EN ROUTE TO PROVISIONAL POLE FOR SUNDAY'S RACE AT CHAMP CAR MONT-TREMBLANT MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada -- For the third consecutive Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car...
MATOS LEADS THIRD STRAIGHT CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC QUALIFYING SESSION EN ROUTE TO PROVISIONAL POLE FOR SUNDAY'S RACE AT CHAMP CAR MONT-TREMBLANT
MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada -- For the third consecutive Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda qualifying session, points leader Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) added to his championship lead and is guaranteed a front row starting spot for Sunday's race as part of the Champ Car Mont-Tremblant festivities (ESPN360.com, Live, 11:30 a.m. ET).
Matos turned a best lap at 1:27.718 (107.567 mph) in the Sierra Sierra Enterprises machine to score the point for claiming the provisional pole and extend his lead in the championship. The Brazilian is now 31 points ahead of teammate James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks), 174-143. Matos will be looking to hang on for his fourth pole of the season in Saturday's final qualifying session and will start from the front row for the fourth time in seven races.
Just two-hundredths of a second behind Matos in an extremely competitive qualifying session was Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor), who wound up second on the day. Bomarito's best lap was 1:27.746 (107.533 mph) and the Californian is looking to top his previous best starting spots of the season which were third-place grid positions in the Las Vegas season-opener and Round 2 at Long Beach. The PR1 Motorsports driver opened the year with three straight top-four results but has finished outside the top-20 spots in two of his last three appearances and is looking to get his season back on track this weekend.
Hinchcliffe wound up third with a lap at 1:27.990 (107.235 mph) in another eventful qualifying session. The Canadian ran out of fuel a few minutes short of the checkered flag in last weekend's provisional qualifying session at Cleveland and made his final qualifying runs on three sticker tires and one old tire. This week, Hinchcliffe lost his right rear tire in Turn 12 in the closing minutes of the session and was fortunate to avoid incident. He is looking for his sixth front-row starting spot in seven races in Saturday's final qualifying round.
Hinchcliffe is joined on the second row of the provisional grid by his fellow Toronto resident, Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK), who posted the fourth-quickest time of the session at 1:28.032 (107.184 mph). Since taking the pole for his Atlantic debut in the Las Vegas season-opener, Wickens has not qualified better than fourth. However, the 18-year-old Red Bull Team Forsythe competitor has finished inside the top five in each of his last three series starts--including a victory in the first race of a doubleheader at Portland earlier this month--and owns top-five results in five of six races this season. He currently leads the Rookie of the Year standings at the halfway point in the season.
Wickens closest pursuer in the race for Rookie of the Year honors was fifth-quickest in provisional qualifying as Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport) turned a best lap at 1:28.137 (107.056 mph). Perera is just six points behind Wickens in the Rookie standings, 140-134, and has finished third in each of the last two Atlantic events. The Condor Motorsports pilot is also the only driver in the field to have finished inside the top five in all six races to date in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic season.
The top five drivers in provisional qualifying turned laps within just 0.419 seconds, while the top 13 were covered by less than one second.
* Rookie J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman Wachs Racing) is on pace for his fifth consecutive top-eight starting position. He turned the sixth-quickest lap in provisional qualifying at 1:28.171 (107.015 mph) and picked up his first career Atlantic podium result with a second-place performance last weekend in Cleveland. Hildebrand is one of few drivers in this weekend's Atlantic field with previous experience at Circuit Mont-Tremblant, as he won both races of a Skip Barber Regional Series doubleheader at the legendary Canadian venue in 2004.
* Local favorite Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select) of Saint-Eustache, Quebec, Canada was eighth in provisional qualifying with a best lap at 1:28.371 (106.773 mph). Lacroix will be making just his fourth Atlantic start this weekend and won in just his second start in Race #2 of the doubleheader at Portland earlier this month.
* Matt Lee (#44 Integrated Structures) and Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports) did not participate in Friday's provisional qualifying session at Mont-Tremblant. At the conclusion of the morning practice session, Lee and Herberts tangled in Turn 8 which resulted in both cars making contact with Brian Thienes (#19 Thienes Engineering) who ran into the rear of Lee before ricocheting into Herberts. Race officials determined that both Lee and Herberts were guilty of unjustifiable risk and the drivers were therefore excluded from the qualifying session. Herberts and Lee were also involved in an incident during last Sunday's Grand Prix of Cleveland which resulted in Herberts' car rolling over in Turn 1. Thienes did participate in the qualifying session and was 20th with a lap at 1:29.442 (105.494 mph).
Quotes from the top-three drivers in provisional qualifying follow below:
RAPHAEL MATOS (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises:
"It was a quite good session for us. Early on in the session I had an issue coming out of the pits. (J.R.) Hildebrand was doing something with his car and the session was green and I tried to pass him. We went side-by-side coming out of the pit lane and I let him by, but they (race officials) brought me into the pits. I lost a couple laps, but it wasn't that bad because we made an adjustment in the car and we kept going. The session went pretty well. We were able to be in the second position on the grid with the old tires. We made some adjustments in the car and put the new tires on the car. It had a really good balance. I'm quite happy with the balance of the car, and quite happy we're starting on the front row for the Sunday race. We'll see what happens tomorrow. The car is quite good, so I am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow."
JONATHAN BOMARITO (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports:
"It's a new weekend and a beautiful track. I haven't been here before, but it's immediately one of my favorites. It's a lot of fun. From the second we put the car on the track this morning it's been good and we've just been fine-tuning it from there. Today, being second was great, but realistically on the first day, it's almost like pole or nothing. That locks you into the front row, so we were going for it hard. I think I did two laps within a couple of hundredths of Rafa's. I just need that tiny bit more. I had a little bit of traffic, but we're good. We're close. I'm excited. We're moving on with the second half of the season. The last few races have definitely been tough. At Portland, I had a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the wet and then last weekend in Cleveland, I had a right rear tire fall off just like James, so another DNF really took me out of that top-three, top-four points battle, but we're going for race wins from here on out."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises:
"The session actually started off a bit rough for us. We didn't have the car exactly where we wanted it. We came in and did a change and it started to get a little bit better, but we knew we needed new tires because we kind of wore out our old tires. I came and we strapped the new set on and was clicking off some quick laps and getting a bit quicker and quicker. I kind of peaked and I think I was P2 at the time. I found a little bit more pace on the track and was putting together one or two more quick laps at the end there. Heading through Turn 10, I noticed the car felt a little bit looser than normal, but maybe I was running a bit too fast. I came through 11 and knew there was definitely something wrong, so I backed off early and when I hit the brakes for 12, my right rear departed the car. Obviously, that was the end of the session for us. It was a bit of a scary moment. I was really lucky where it happened and also lucky that it didn't bring out a red and I didn't lose my lap. The car is quick and tomorrow we can have a shot at pole and try and make it six out of seven front-row starts."