FITTING BEGINNING Nearly one month to the day of merging with de Ferran Motorsports on February 16, the new Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports team will unveil its revamped crew, new HP car and new managing partner and team president, Gil...
Nearly one month to the day of merging with de Ferran Motorsports on February 16, the new Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports team will unveil its revamped crew, new HP car and new managing partner and team president, Gil de Ferran, at the IZOD IndyCar 2010 season opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Sao Paulo Indy 300 marks the return of Indy-style cars to Brazil for the first time since the CART series ran in Rio de Janeiro from 1996-2000. After launching a storied career as a driver on the gokart tracks in Sao Paulo in 1974, just a few miles away from the site of Sunday's race, it seems only fitting that de Ferran's IndyCar ownership career start in similar fashion 36 years later. He will have fellow Brazilian and 2009 Apex Brazil IndyCar Rookie of the Year Raphael Matos behind the wheel and an experienced crew to work with, including team manager John Cummiskey, chief mechanic John Piccinotti and race engineer Eric Zeto. Jay Penske is the race strategist.
Gil ON THE DEBUT IN BRAZIL
"All races count the same number of points and pay the same money, so why should I approach racing in Brazil any different, right? This race however has many special landmarks for me personally. Although I have owned a team for the past two seasons, it is my debut in IndyCars, a series that has had a great significance in my motorsports career. In addition, racing at home at a location where in fact I learned to drive karts at age 6 will be quite special."
THE GIL FACTOR
No matter who you ask, whether it's Steve Luczo, Jay Penske or Raphael Matos, the answer is almost always the same - Gil de Ferran will have a significant impact on the development of the Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports Racing team, especially with Matos, the driver. "I think adding someone who's actually been in a race car before and has raced at so many of the venues to provide that tutelage and leadership will be great for us," Penske said. "It'll be a huge - clearly coming from the same country, someone he respects so much, I think this is really a match made in heaven." Said Luczo: "Plus Gil can say "stay calm" in Portuguese much better than Jay or I can."
GIL ON RAFA
"If you look at Rafa's career he has gotten where he is by being successful on the track. He has won every single step of the way and in every single form he has participated in. It's been a long hard struggle, but certainly I feel he has unique credentials to be here and we are fortunate to have such a promising talent on our team. No question about it our goal this year is to improve on the results, which frankly weren't bad, but we have to realize that we are racing against some formidable opponents that have a huge amount of experience in the series with this equipment. Having said that we are going to do our best to compete with those teams but that's a process and will take some time."
RAFA ON RACING IN SAO PAULO
"I couldn't be more excited for a race. It's important because it's the first race of the year, but it's in my home country and I'm racing in front of my people. I've dreamed of doing this and now it's like a dream come true for me, racing in Brazil with my fans, friends and family around. It's for sure going to be a different atmosphere."
RAFA ON THE SAO PAULO RACE TRACK "All I know is the design, configuration and some of the simulations that the engineers have done. We will learn more of the details once we walk on the pavement and see what kind of grip we will have and finally driving the car on Saturday. It's certainly a neutral territory for everybody. I believe that the teams with more experience always have an edge on everybody else, but I think we have a strong street course baseline based on our performance on the streets last year. I'm ready and excited for the challenge."
NO LONGER A ROOKIE
After a bumpy start that saw him not finish three of the first four races in 2009, Raphael Matos rebounded nicely in his rookie campaign, finishing all but one of the remaining 13 races and racking up eight top 10 finishes along the way. Aside from claiming the Apex Brazil Rookie of the Year crown, Matos learned many lessons along the way. "The most important thing I learned was not to put my race in the other drivers hands. I was fortunate to run the full season last year and I was able to learn a lot of the tracks, but I still have a lot to learn. You can't learn everything in just one year. There is a lot of work for me and a lot of hard work for the team ahead. Experience is always good and I will definitely benefit from last year. Hopefully I will also use some of Gil's experience to my advantage."
FRUITFUL KART Karting in Miami has been particularly fruitful for Raphael Matos. Not only did the sport provide him with his first job in the U.S, it also helped secure his full time IndyCar Series ride. Rafa met Gil de Ferran through his friend Oswaldo Negri while practicing at the gokart track in Homestead. They were able to practice and ride together during Rafa's frequent visits to the Homestead track. When Luczo Dragon began looking for a driver, de Ferran recommended Rafa to Jay Penske. Now they are reunited again as team owner and driver.
Raphael Matos has one of the more unique helmet designs in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The helmet is black with red and blue chevrons, a blue band with red top. His father designed it for him when he started racing in 1992 and he has worn it ever since. "It's something that I'm proud of and you can really see that that's my helmet because it's very original." His father, Sergio Eustaquio, will be at the race in Sao Paulo.
Raphael Matos will have his entire family from Belo Horizonte in attendance at the race in Sao Paulo. While his father, Sergio, and sister, Barbara, saw him race last season, his mother, Maria Clorinda, and 90 year old grandmother, Araci Setembrina, will see him race for the first time since 2006 when they visited Portland to see him race in the Atlantics series.
RETURN TO SAO PAULO
While it may be the first time on this racetrack, Raphael Matos has run his share of races in Sao Paulo. Matos made his debut in Sao Paulo in 1996 when he was 15 years old. He has won five times in the city, all at the Paulista Karting Championships. The last time he raced in Sao Paulo was at the Granja Viana 500 December 4-5, 2009.
#2 HP LUCZO DRAGON PIT CREW ASSIGNMENTS
The Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports crew features eight returning members and four new faces on race days, including data engineers Scott Raymond and Carlos Gutierrez and mechanics Chris Lovely and Shawn Ford. Everyone else returns, although there are two position changes. Josh Junge moves from outside rear tire changer to inside front, while Jason Hurless makes the move to outside rear after handling front tire pass duties a year ago.