Raphael Matos recovered from the agony of defeat in Edmonton with a statement in San Jose. The Brazilian captured his third pole of the season and finally scored his first win, after leading all 45 laps in what was an action-packed event. Matos...
Raphael Matos recovered from the agony of defeat in Edmonton with a statement in San Jose. The Brazilian captured his third pole of the season and finally scored his first win, after leading all 45 laps in what was an action-packed event. Matos held off an early challenge from Graham Rahal and then set the pace once Rahal ran into trouble. The result vaulted him from 10th to 7th in the standings.
The only mistake Matos made on this day was that he celebrated too quickly, doing celebratory donuts at turn three while cars were still circulating on the cool down lap! No one suffered any damage and Matos drove around to a clear part of the concrete confines to do what he has longed for this season.
"This is like a dream come true for me and the team," Matos said. "We've been fighting - it's been full of ups and downs. But today we got everything together. I was just trying to pace myself. I kind of remembered about Edmonton, so I tried to be cautious, but I didn't want to open up too big of a gap." He had gotten out of the groove with a substantial lead in Edmonton and made contact with the wall.
Though chaos was expected following a run down to turn one, the 25 car field negotiated the 20-mph hairpin without incident. The same result didn't occur a lap later as seven cars, including all four Forsythe entries, were involved in a domino-effect collision that sent all of them to the pits for repairs. Simon Pagenaud went over the top of Jonathan Bomarito and then Richard Philippe nudged his teammate James Hinchcliffe into the air, and riding on Alan Sciuto's roll bar. Andreas Wirth and Leonardo Maia spun both entering and exiting the corners. All continued, with no injuries but bruised egos.
On the restart Colin Fleming came under attack from Ryan Lewis. Lewis hurled his car into turn one but pushed high and left the former Red Bull driver nowhere to go but into the wall. Lewis continued and Fleming was irritated. "I think it's obvious what happened," Fleming fumed. "Lewis made a banzai move and put me in the wall. He's famous for this in just a few races and unfortunately we were the victim." It was an unhappy day for Fleming, running a solid 3rd in just his second start and under the microscope of team owner Bob Gelles as he searches for his Champ Car drivers for next season.
Another green flew but the wrecks kept happening - Joe D'Agostino stuffed his Newman/Wachs entry into the turn six barriers and Alex Sperafico looped his car into the turn seven wall. Out came full course caution number 3 and the battle up front between Matos and Rahal had not materialized.
On lap 24, several laps into what was another short green flag run, Alex Barron spun in turn one and knocked off his front wing. It has not been a good return to the series that Barron won in 1997. Meanwhile Rahal lost his focus while pursuing Matos, nosing into the turn six wall. He damaged his front wing and right front suspension and trundled home to a disappointing 12th-place finish. He was in the best position to capitalize in the championship with Pagenaud and Wirth out of contention.
One more caution flew when Ricardo Vassmer crashed, not heavily but once again in turn six. On the restart, Vassmer's Jensen Motorsport teammate Tim Bridgman was a bit too ambitious and passed Danilo Dirani for 3rd prior to seeing the green flag. Race control ordered Bridgman to give back the position and the Briton did. Pagenaud had recovered from the lap two shenanigans and battled 2005 C2 class champion Justin Sofio for the 8th position. Sofio, a mechanic turned driver, pulled off a great maneuver going into the final turn but lost momentum on the exit. Pagenaud repeated the feat into turn one and that was that - with all due respect to Sofio, it was not Pagenaud's intention to be dicing with him in the first place.
While Matos cruised to victory, Lewis came home in second with Dirani 3rd. Bridgman took a season-best 4th and Maia rebounded to finish 5th. Pagenaud finished 8th and gained ground in the championship hunt after running as low as 21st, while Rahal was 12th and Wirth 18th. Pagenaud leads the standings by 27 points over Rahal, who is a further three points clear of Wirth. The next round is in two weeks in Denver.