RAPHAEL MATOS STAYS HOT, LEADS FIRST-ROUND ATLANTIC QUALIFYING AT LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, California (April 13, 2007) -- Not only did Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer Raphael Matos ( ...
RAPHAEL MATOS STAYS HOT, LEADS FIRST-ROUND ATLANTIC QUALIFYING AT LONG BEACH
LONG BEACH, California (April 13, 2007) -- Not only did Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) show his overall speed on Friday in the opening round of Atlantic qualifying at Long Beach, the Brazilian also proved he doesn't need a lot of time to reach his maximum output.
Matos, the winner of last weekend's season-opening race in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at Las Vegas, got up to speed quickly after a late red caution flag. Matos needed just two laps on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit to clock a fast time of 1:16.765 (92.292 mph), claiming the provisional pole for Sunday's Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
After scoring his second career Atlantic win last weekend, Matos remained red hot to begin Round 2. The 25-year-old, who finished second at Long Beach in 2006, paced a spirited morning practice on Friday and then he jumped to the top of the leaderboard early in the 35-minute afternoon qualifying. Matos found himself atop the scoring sheets when he became the first driver to dive below the one-minute, 17-second barrier. A red flag came out to bring qualifying to a halt with 11 minutes remaining in the session, however, after Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) went into the tire barrier in Turn 1.
The ensuing cleanup left only four minutes of green-flag running left in qualifying as the other drivers in the 29-car field had to act quickly to wrest the provisional pole from the current series leader. Instead it was Matos who took advantage of rapidly-moving qualifying clock. On his second lap after taking the green flag re-start, Matos blazed what would turn out to be his fast lap of the day, before seeing the checkered flag. His effort locked up a front-row starting spot for Sunday's 50-minute race and Matos also claimed a point for leading qualifying. He now carries a series-leading 32-point total into Saturday's final round of qualifying at Long Beach.
Monterey, California's Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) also made the most of the last few laps of qualifying. The PR1 Motorsports pilot jumped up from fourth to second on the timing sheet when he posted a mark of 1:16.989 (92.024 mph) on his 19th and final lap of the session. Bomarito, coming off a third-place result last weekend in Vegas, wound up second in first-round qualifying. The third-year series racer qualified in fourth place last year at Long Beach and ran as high as second in the race before retiring with mechanical problems.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day, however, came from local racer Alan Sciuto (#20 The RoomStore of Phoenix). The 18-year-old native of nearby Orange, California, found himself without a ride just days before the 2007 season opener when the team he was planning to run with couldn't answer the opening bell. Sciuto formed his own team, with the help of his father, and Alan Sciuto Racing produced a seventh-place result in Las Vegas. After finishing second in Friday morning practice at Long Beach, Sciuto continued to impress in opening-round qualifying. He checked in third overall when he recorded a fast lap of 1:17.020 (91.986 mph).
Las Vegas polewinner Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) recovered from a morning practice crash to claim fourth in the Friday qualifying for Red Bull Team Forsythe with a time of 1:17.131 (91.854 mph). Fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) of the Sierra Sierra team, completed the top-five qualifiers at 1:17.238 (91.727 mph).
Red Bull Team Forsythe's John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK) had a strong day in his first Long Beach experience. The 16-year-old Arkansas driver was sixth after carding a top lap of 1:17.438 (91.490 mph). Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport) of France owned seventh in first-round qualifying with a mark of 1:17.445 (91.482 mph) while Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments) of Arleta, California had a very strong result in eighth place with a mark of 1:17.703 (91.178 mph).
Rookies Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) of Italy and Sausalito, California's J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman Wachs Racing) rounded out the top 10. Ricci was timed at 1:17.751 (91.122 mph) while Hildebrand stopped the clock at 1:17.754 (91.118 mph).
On Saturday, the Atlantics start the day with a 45-minute practice beginning at 8:35 a.m. PT. The final round of qualifying will then take place from 12:40-1:15 p.m. to determine the final grid for Sunday's race.
For more information on North America's premier open-wheel development series and to follow all of this weekend's action from Long Beach through the Live Timing link, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
* The top 11 drivers in qualifying were separated by less than a second on the timing clock.
* Series veterans occupied the top three and four of the top five positions in qualifying. A total of 21 of the 29 drivers that qualified on Friday were rookies.
* Dan Selznick (#49 The RoomStore of Phoenix) will join the field on Saturday to make 30 Atlantic entries this weekend. Selznick's car suffered a cracked tub last week in Las Vegas, but The Room Store team and Swift engineers worked hard all week to fix the car so Selznick could compete this weekend. With 30 cars, this will be the largest Atlantic field since 30 entries took the green flag at Montreal in 1999.
Quotes from the top three drivers from the first-round of qualifying follow:
Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises
"We just want to keep the momentum going and hopefully we will be able to get the pole tomorrow. I believe we have a good fast car. I had a really fast lap coming but on my last lap unfortunately I made a mistake in the hairpin and that cost me about two tenths but that's okay because I believe that we have a very consistent car. Sierra Sierra Enterprise did an amazing job, I can't thank enough the mechanics and the whole team. After we re-started the session, we had made adjustments to the car and I felt that I had a much better car. My car was much more balanced and it was much easier to do the lap. I had a 16.5 lap coming but like I said before I made a mistake in the hairpin and that cost me two tenths but we did improve the car a lot and we will make more for tomorrow."
Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports
"Last year was definitely a great way to start the season for sure. This year it started in Vegas and we had a good start there. The momentum is going now. The team is doing a great job. We just have to try and go one step a little bit better in qualifying and get that first pole. We are looking for big things tomorrow we just have to keep plugging away like the team's doing, it's fantastic. (About racing in Long Beach) I feel really comfortable. I've been here three times, once back in 2004, and they do a really good job in putting the walls back in the same place for sure. Year after year it's the same consistent track for street course. It's phenomenal. It's good for the teams, for the drivers. Every time we go out there trying different things with the set-up. It would have been nice to get the pole today because it makes it easier for you tomorrow, you have a little bit more free range with set-up and that's what we were shooting at."
Alan Sciuto (#20 The RoomStore of Phoenix) of Alan Sciuto Racing
"I was definitely on a pretty good lap that session. I just wanted to get some clean track ahead of me. With all the cars out there it's hard finding a clean gap. I tried to space myself out good and I knew I had a good lap going and just had to bring it back to the line. In Long Beach we were hoping to be a lot more prepared. For Vegas, with my old team we found out three days ahead of time that we were not going. So it put us at a disadvantage. We put this team together. It's a great team and Gerald Tyler my engineer and the whole team did a great job putting the car together and we finished seventh."