Raphael Matos Dominates San Jose Atlantic Event in Flag-to-Flag Victory Series Rookie Captures First Victory of Promising Season SAN JOSE, Calif., July 31, 2006 -- Raphael Matos dominated Sunday's Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic ...
Raphael Matos Dominates San Jose Atlantic Event in Flag-to-Flag Victory
Series Rookie Captures First Victory of Promising Season
SAN JOSE, Calif., July 31, 2006 -- Raphael Matos dominated Sunday's Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda San Jose, Calif. event. The young Brazilian, a native of Belo Horizonte now living in Miami, Fla., led the Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow from flag-to-flag stressing again that he is one of the top, young, open wheel drivers in the country. It was the first Atlantic Series win for the 2005 Star Mazda Series champion, but Rafa, as he is best known, has been a constant threat throughout the season in the No. 6 ProWorks/Sierra Sierra Enterprises Mazda. The 1.8-second victory from his third pole position of the season came here at ProWorks' San Jose national headquarters. The finish betters Rafa's best previous result, a second-place finish at the season opening Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"This means a lot for me and especially for the team," said Matos after the checkered flag. "This makes us a lot stronger. Every time the Sierra Sierra Enterprises team goes into practice or qualifying we have always been stronger each session. We've been chasing this victory all season, since Long Beach. Some times it just doesn't happen. Sometimes you just can't deliver the result when you think you should. This win was good timing. The whole team is from San Jose. All the families and friends were here and we had a big party after the race. It was special."
Matos, who set an Atlantic Series qualifying record in winning the pole position (with a time of 55.495 seconds), got the better start of the two front-row qualifying cars and led into the first of 11 turns on the 1.448-mile downtown-San Jose course. He never looked back even as his competition made mistakes in desperate pursuit. None would seriously challenge the Sierra Sierra Enterprises team or its 24 year-old driver.
"We were a little bit off the pace the first day," reflected Rafa. "We made a pretty big change the second day. We were just too stiff and we made a change and for qualifying we just fine-tuned the big change. The car was really good. My pole lap was my last lap. With the low grip on the track it just took so long to get the tires up to temperature and get a clean lap. In the race, on the first start, we were pretty equal and on the second start I made some changes in the car that made it much quicker. When Rahal saw I was quicker than him, he just kept pushing and pushing until he got into the wall. The only corner he was faster than me was in turn six. He had a little better balance than me in that corner and the changes I made, made me faster there and that was where he crashed. I was disappointed because I knew we could beat him on the track and that is what I wanted to do."
"At the end I just made sure I had a good restart after the last yellow. I pushed really hard on that one trying to break [Ryan] Lewis's draft. Once I was able to do that I was able to pull away almost 3/10th [a second] a lap. The ProWorks car was pretty well balanced. We had a front wing flap broken and we were still able to be faster than him."
By finishing first in San Jose, Matos jumped from tenth to seventh in the 2006 Driver's Championship. He gained 33 points this weekend with the win and the pole position. Matos and the Sierra Sierra team currently sit just 71 points behind the championship leader and just five markers out of the top-five. He moved into fifth position in the Rookie of the Year standings with the performance.
Matos continued; "I think the team was very confident even before this win. I think I have a little bit of advantage from here because I know two of the three tracks left and I had never driven on any of the tracks earlier in the season. We can start the week working a little more on the race setup instead of learning the track. I think it is looking pretty good. At Denver, it should be similar to San Jose, so we should have a good baseline for Denver. The whole crew is very confident, we feel very strong for the next three races. This is a very, very good team and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."
Rafa's maiden Atlantic Series victory will be aired at 11 AM, August 5 on SPEED Channel. The re-air will broadcast on August 9 at 3:30 PM.