San Jose: Race notes

RAPHAEL MATOS AVOIDS TROUBLE, LEADS FLAG-TO-FLAG IN SAN JOSE FOR FIRST ATLANTIC VICTORY SAN JOSE, California (July 30, 2006) - Brazilian rookie Raphael Matos ( ...

RAPHAEL MATOS AVOIDS TROUBLE, LEADS FLAG-TO-FLAG IN SAN JOSE FOR FIRST ATLANTIC VICTORY

SAN JOSE, California (July 30, 2006) - Brazilian rookie Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) completed a week-long rollercoaster ride of racing emotions Sunday as the Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer led every lap on the streets of San Jose for his first career victory in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

Just one week ago, Matos suffered one of the lowest moments of his motorsports career. The 24-year-old dominated at the Edmonton airport road circuit, leading the first 28 laps before making hard contact with the wall as he watched what would've been his first Atlantic win slip from his grasp.

Just seven days later, Matos successfully exorcized his Edmonton demons as he avoided the multitude of incidents on the 1.443-mile street circuit and ran a near flawless race to capture the Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow Atlantic event (tape-delayed on SPEED at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 5).

After winning his third series pole position on Saturday, Matos set the tone for his dominant day when he enjoyed a strong launch from a standing start in front of a packed house of San Jose race fans. While the 25-car Atlantic field did a great job negotiating the fast and tight street circuit on the opening lap, trouble began for many series competitors at the beginning of Lap 2. Several cars came together in the Turn 1 hairpin touching off a series of incidents that would affect the race results for numerous competitors.

After local racer Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Intervision/NetApp/Juniper Networks/Miracle Sealants) of Monterey, California suffered contact with another car, the machines of James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK), Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing/The RoomStore of Phoenix) and series leader Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) all suffered damage. Hinchcliffe and Pagenaud both became airborne in the incident, but no drivers suffered any injuries. While Hinchcliffe's day was done as a result of the crash, the other involved drivers, including Hinchcliffe's three other Forsythe Racing teammates, either continued on or limped back to pit lane for repairs.

Matos was able to steer clear of the incident, but he found himself being haunted by rival Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing throughout the early part of the race. Matos continued to turn back Rahal's challenges for the lead, even during a couple of early-race restarts, as the Brazilian was determined not to repeat his mistakes from one-week earlier.

Just past the halfway point of the 45-lap race, Rahal made a mistake of his own. The 17-year-old rookie son of racing legend Bobby Rahal locked up his brakes and went into the tire wall at Turn 6. He was able to get back underway, but Rahal dropped back in the field and out of contention. Although he finished 12th, Rahal actually improved his position in the championship standings. He's now second in the season rundown with three races remaining.

Despite having his chief pursuer off of his tail, Matos didn't let up. He continued to hold off Rahal's teammate, British racer Ryan Lewis (#30 Insport Sports Management) for the race lead, as Matos fought to the finish line 1.848 seconds in front of Lewis. With his impressive second-place result after an eighth-place start, Lewis has now finished on the podium in three of his first six races and he's earned top-three results in the first two street-course events of his racing career.

Condor Motorsports' Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons) recovered from early-race contact to score his first Atlantic podium. The Brazilian rookie enjoyed a strong standing start from 10th position and he was stellar on the five race restarts, helping him move forward to claim third place in San Jose.

Tim Bridgman (#2 Epson) of Great Britain also enjoyed his best Atlantic result. The Epson Team Jensen rookie grabbed fourth place for his first series top five. Forsythe Racing driver Leonardo Maia (#7 Layer 7/INDECK) enjoyed his return to the Bay Area. The Brazilian-born Maia, who moved to Oakland, California at age three and grew up less than an hour's drive from the San Jose track, came home fifth for his best result in 11 Atlantic starts.

Mexico's David Martinez (#4 Speedway Motors/Days Inn/Spinnakers) gave the Bite Racing team its best series finish in two years as he rallied from a 14th-place starting position to secure a sixth-place result. Young Australian racer James Davison (#5 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards) owned seventh place for his top Atlantic finish.

Mathiasen Motorsports series sophomore Justin Sofio (#26 Mathiasen Motorsports/RLM Investments) battled for position with Atlantic championship leader Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) late in the race. Pagenaud initially finished ahead of Sofio, but after the race, officials penalized Pagenaud for blocking on Sofio. As a result, Sofio scored his best finish of the season in eighth place while Pagenaud slipped back to ninth for his eighth top-10 result of his remarkable rookie season. Pagenaud maintained his lead in the title chase, despite the infraction, and now carries a 26-point cushion over Rahal in the standings into Round 10.

Carlos Mastretta (#8 Tecnoidea/Radiante Digital/Signotech) of Mexico and Brooks Associates Racing completed the top-10 rundown from Round 9 of the Atlantic Championship.

Denver hosts the next round of North America's top open-wheel development series as the Atlantics will visit the Grand Prix of Denver's Pepsi Center street course, August 11-13. For more information and to watch all of this season's races on demand, visit www.champcaratlantic.com.

ATLANTIC RACE NOTES

* A total of 10 drivers in the 25-car field, including the top five finishers, all scored their best results of the season Sunday.

* The Atlantic Championship has now featured six different race winners in the first nine rounds of action this season.

* Sunday's race included a season-high five caution flags.

* Sofio's #26 Mathiasen Motorsports entry won this weekend's Sherwin-Williams Atlantic Design Award. Representatives of Sherwin-Williams, the Official Automotive Finish of Atlantics, along with select San Jose race fans, judged Sofio's car to have the best finish design this weekend. The team was awarded $4,000 for the honor. At the conclusion of the season, Sherwin-Williams will present the 2006 Atlantic Design Award to the car deemed to have the top season-long livery design. The winning entry will also be awarded a $10,000 bonus.

* Matos has now led a series high 100 laps this season, but ranks seventh in the championship standings.

* Series officials also announced after the race that Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar) has been placed on probation for the remainder of the season after "avoidable contact" in a late-race incident with Alex Sperafico (#10 Mnyx.com/Sperafico Agroindustrial).

* Sofio also earned a bonus championship point for improving the most positions during the race. He started 22nd and improved 14 spots to finish eighth.

Quotes from the top three drivers in today's race follow:

Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: "Five laps to go, I was just trying to keep calm, pace myself, and keep the same gap back to Ryan Lewis. I was probably driving 95 percent of the car. Fortunately, everything worked perfectly this weekend. We had the pole and were able to keep the lead in every restart. I believe we had the best car out there this weekend. I can't thank my team enough, it was great, like a dream come true for me. I knew that the first start, I had to be really focused because they could get close and try to pass me. I tried to get a jump earlier than everyone else. Fortunately, I was able to open a little gap and I was able to get my speed a little higher on the straightaway. (On Graham Rahal's incident) I was pushing 100 percent in the car, but I knew at that pace, I would have stuffed it in the tire wall. I could see that he was pushing really hard. At that point, I looked in my mirrors every lap and suddenly I didn't see him behind me. He was putting pressure on me, but I was able to manage it. I feel sorry for him and his place in the championship, but as a driver, it's better for me. With Ryan behind me, I was able to set a better pace and keep the gap."

Ryan Lewis (#30 Insport) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing: "The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team has been good at most races especially with Graham Rahal and we always have a very strong car. We never really struggle with the setup. We have such great guys working for us. Coming to another street circuit, it's a very similar setup to Toronto. There have been a few problems in the first corner. I struggled a bit in qualifying, and made a few mistakes. I think we could have put it a bit further up in qualifying. My car was a little loose during the race, and I was a bit worried. But, we came out with a good result. (On his teammate Graham Rahal's incident) Initially, I wondered what happened. Graham Rahal rarely makes a mistake, but I guess he made a little one there. Obviously, on a street circuit, the price is quite high when you make a mistake. It's unfortunate for him, with where he wants to be in the championship. He could have picked up a lot of points. It's always good to see your teammate do well."

Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons) of Condor Motorsports: "We showed that we had the speed to be in the top six, but in qualifying, we didn't get a good lap. So we started P10. We had to be careful to avoid accidents. I did a good start and I was P8, then in the confusion in the first corner, I was back to P10. Then on the next lap, I saw some smoke on the tires and tried to be careful. After the corner, I was P5. The first race, in Long Beach, I was careful about avoiding accidents and I came fifth. You have to push, but if you don't avoid the accidents, you don't get points. Now we are stronger than the beginning of the season and we will try to get more points and maybe finish fifth in the points. (On getting a podium for his team and San Jose Grand Prix sponsor The Canary Fund) I have to thank them because without them I wouldn't be here in this championship. I also want to thank my whole team that has worked so hard from day one. They've worked 100%, sometimes until one in the morning."

-ccws/atl

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Leonardo Maia , David Martinez , Alex Sperafico , Jonathan Bomarito , Danilo Dirani , Ryan Lewis , Justin Sofio , James Davison , Simon Pagenaud , James Hinchcliffe , Carlos Mastretta
Teams Williams , Conquest Racing