Raphael Matos Seeks Atlantic Victory to Close Rookie Campaign at Road America Young Brazilian Named to A1 Team Brazil Effort ELKHART LAKE, Wisc, September 20, 2006 -- Young, Brazilian race driver Raphael "Rafa" Matos enters his final ...
Raphael Matos Seeks Atlantic Victory to Close Rookie Campaign at Road America
Young Brazilian Named to A1 Team Brazil Effort
ELKHART LAKE, Wisc, September 20, 2006 -- Young, Brazilian race driver Raphael "Rafa" Matos enters his final Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda Series event of 2006 this weekend at Road America. On top of the anticipation of the season-finale, it was also announced this week that A1 Team Brazil has selected Rafa to represent his country as a driver during 2006/2007 A1GP World Cup of Motorsports season. The honor is on the footsteps of a strong rookie season in the Atlantic Series at the wheel of the No. 6 ProWorks/Sierra Sierra Enterprises Mazda for the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, who now lives in Miami. Despite it being his first season and suffering from a lack of familiarity with most of the tracks, Rafa has had significant success in his Atlantic premiere. Now, entering what has become a major week in his career, Rafa is eager to add a win at the Gehl Champ Car Atlantic Championship Finale at Road America to his tally for the season.
"I believe it will be an interesting weekend for us, said Rafa. "I am pretty comfortable this weekend. There are several things that we changed in the car based on my team manger's experience here. We think they are positive changes. This will be an important weekend. We are setting-up everything for next year. I love the track. I've raced here many times. I had the pole here last year and I finished third. I am pretty comfortable with the track. It's fun to drive. The fast corners and heavy braking zones fit my style."
The announcement that Rafa will be part of A1 Team Brazil for this year's A1GP World Cup of Motorsports season came on Tuesday. Brazilian racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi (Sao Paulo, Brazil), team principal and seatholder of A1 Team Brazil, invited Rafa to Silverstone, England to test for the team earlier this month. Several Brazilian drivers tested for the seat in the open wheel series that runs teams from around the world under their country's flag. Despite never having driven at Silverstone, and with less than 50 laps on the circuit or in the A1GP car at the conclusion of the test, Fittipaldi saw enough in the multi-time Brazilian karting champion to invite him to join the team. Rafa will be the team's test driver at the A1GP Beijing China on November 5. Rafa will have the task of running the car in Friday's test session on November 3. The third-round of the 13 race championship will give Rafa more seat time and may open the door to future events for A1 Team Brazil.
"A1GP is a very good opportunity for me to learn as a driver," commented the proud Brazilian. "It is one of the highest levels of racing in the world right now. So, it is very, very good for me to get a chance to drive this car. I want to thank Emerson and the whole team for giving me the chance to drive the car. I am definitely looking forward to doing the testing for the event in China. Hopefully, I can help the team win the championship. I believe the Brazilian team has a lot of potential for sure. I'm really excited about it. It means a lot as a driver, as a Brazilian. It makes me very proud to represent my country in one of the highest level championships in the world. It is a unique feeling for sure. You are always looking to be competitive all the time but it is a little bit different when you are representing your country."
Road America is only the third track of the season that Rafa has driven prior to the event weekend. Portland and Montreal were the only other venues that he had any experience on. The 4.048-mile course, the longest, natural terrain, road course the Atlantic cars will compete on this season, is a favorite of Matos. With two long straightaways and several shorter high-speed runs breaking-up the 12-turn facility, the famous Wisconsin track fits well into Rafa's style of driving and has provided him with two podium finishes in the Star Mazda series the last two seasons.
Rafa has shown speed at nearly every venue regularly ranking in the top-three positions of each session. Consistency and speed have paid off for the 2005 Star Mazda Champion. He has finished 359 of the possible 384 laps and has led the second most laps (100) of any driver thus far this season. Rafa's debut in the Sierra Sierra Enterprises-entered car has resulted in one victory (San Jose) and three pole positions (Houston, Edmonton and San Jose) thus far. He currently is ranked fourth in the championship battle. While mathematically eliminated for the championship, he still has the potential to finish in the top-three.
The Gehl Champ Car Atlantic Championship Finale at Road America will be aired at 5 PM (ET), October 8 on SPEED Channel. A second broadcast on October 11 can be seen at 11 AM. Live Timing and Scoring and news from the Champ Car Atlantic Series can be found at www.ChampCarAtlantic.com.