Toronto: de Ferran Dragon racing preview

RETURN TO TORONTO Raphael Matos will make his fourth appearance on the streets of Toronto and second with the IZOD IndyCar Series. As a rookie in 2009, Matos avoided any major damage in an action packed race to finish 10th and take over the ...


Raphael Matos will make his fourth appearance on the streets of Toronto and second with the IZOD IndyCar Series. As a rookie in 2009, Matos avoided any major damage in an action packed race to finish 10th and take over the top spot in the rookie of the year chase. Matos, who started ninth, made contact with Ryan Briscoe on the opening lap and suffered damage to the front wing, but did not pit. "The wing wasn't completely broken and I didn't want to lose any time in the pits so I stayed out," Matos said. Aside from recording a top 10 finish, his fourth of the season, Matos registered his first ever P1 finish in an IZOD IndyCar Series practice session. Matos had the fastest lap time in the second practice session, posting a time of 1:01.4739. He had finished second in the first session with a time of 1:02.2975.


The fact that Matos captured the pole and finished third in the 2007 Atlantics race in Toronto could explain why he was able to get up to speed quickly during his IndyCar debut last year. Another explanation could be the long history of success that Eric Zeto, de Ferran Dragon's race engineer, has had on the streets of Toronto. Not only did Zeto grow up just five miles from the track (he could hear the cars from his house), he has been part of seven races on his hometown circuit, including five as lead engineer. He helped guide Forsythe Racing's Patrick Carpentier to a third place finish in 2004 and Paul Tracy to a second place finish in 2006. He has had five top 10s finishes and has qualified in the top 10 six times and the top five three times in Toronto.


Raphael Matos survived two collisions and managed to avoid several other incidents late in what he labeled "the most difficult race of the season" to finish 10th in last year's Honda Indy Toronto. Matos was hit on the side twice during the race but was able to keep the car from suffering major damage in either incident. The race, won by Dario Franchitti, featured seven lead changes and a hectic finish that wiped out four drivers, all in turn 3, during the final 26 laps. Matos started ninth and ran as high as fourth. Quick pit stops to repair a broken front wing and flat left rear tire during the final 11 laps cost him a top seven finish. "It was the most difficult race of the season by far," Matos said. "There were a lot of drivers taking a lot of risks and that's why so many guys didn't finish. I was hit twice during the race and lost a couple positions, but we were happy to finish and collect some points."


"Toronto is the ultimate street course. It's very bumpy with a lot of corners. It's a very challenging track. Being right in the city is really cool because you can see all the beauty and some of the culture of the city. Canadian fans are awesome. They are very passionate about racing and that makes it a really fun atmosphere."


"He has a lot of experience in Toronto and a very good understanding of the track. He helped set up a very good baseline for us last year and hopefully we'll be fast again this year."


If anyone were to get credit for launching Eric Zeto's racing career it would probably be Scott Goodyear. Zeto's path to motorsports was less than expected after graduating from the University of Waterloo in 1998 with a degree in Applied Science in Engineering. Zeto, a first generation North American who's parents were Chinese immigrants to Canada, caught some races on TV as a kid, but didn't gain a passion for the sport until watching fellow Toronto native Scott Goodyear get edged in the 1992 Indianapolis 500. That exposure was enough to influence Zeto to pursue a career in racing despite having a traditional engineering job opportunity waiting for him in Toronto following graduation.


Zeto may be the lead engineer for the de Ferran Dragon Racing team, but he is not the only Canadian in the bunch. Scott Raymond, the team's performance engineer, is from Ottawa. "Although Eric and Scott are both Canadians, they couldn't be more different," managing partner and team president Gil de Ferran said. "They are both important parts of our engineering team. Eric is our lead race engineer, very experienced and wise. Scott is our performance engineer, leading the charge on mathematical simulations and data analysis."


As the second half of the 2010 season gets rolling, the IZOD IndyCar Series is in the midst of five consecutive road/street course races. If the first five road course races are any indication, Matos is hoping to improve his position (12th) in the championship standings. Matos has been particularly strong on the road/street courses this season, averaging 23.2 points and ranking eighth in the road course standings with 116 points. He has averaged just 14.5 points on ovals this year, which is a significant change from last season. As a rookie Matos was nearly identical in his performance on road courses as he was on ovals in 2009. With a strong finish that included four top 10s in the final five races a year ago, Matos averaged 18.2 points on ovals and 18.6 on road/street courses last season.


Prior to the Watkins Glen race, the de Ferran Dragon team tested at Mid Ohio to improve its road course set up and with a fourth place finish at the Glen the session obviously helped. "As we consistently mention, we are a young team that benefits disproportionately from testing and track time. Our Mid Ohio test in particular was very useful to eliminate some doubts and clarify a set up direction for road courses. This clearer understanding translated well at the Glen and we shall see if things work as well in Toronto."


Buoyed by a determined de Ferran Dragon pit crew, Raphael Matos overcame problems with his telemetry and put together a strong run to finish a career-best fourth at the IZOD IndyCar Camping World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Matos lost all telemetry in the car on the 17th lap and had to rely completely on radio communication with team, but never allowed the issue to distract him from matching his career-best finish. It was his third top 10 of the season and second top 5. He finished fourth in the season opening race in Sao Paulo. The team's strong performance was evident early in the race when Matos climbed from a season-best 11th place starting position to seventh by lap nine. When he passed Justin Wilson five laps later he was in the top 5. And then the telemetry went down, but it never slowed Matos down. He gained one spot on the first pit stop and then passed Dario Franchitti on lap 20 during the race's first restart to move into third place. Matos held firm in third place until the team's final pit stop on lap 38. Franchitti was able to last one more lap on fuel and moved ahead of Matos heading into the final stint. While Dan Wheldon and Mario Moraes gave chase, Matos never gave ground and remained in fourth the rest of the way.


Matos' fourth place finish at the Glen not only matched a career-high, it also drew praise from team owner and mentor Gil de Ferran. Matos was consistent and despite the loss of telemetry he never lost focus. "Although Rafa dropped back on the start, he never panicked, quickly realized he had a strong car, was aggressive as well as cunning in his drive through the field," de Ferran said. "Every time we have been able to come up with a quick car Rafa has responded. Hopefully we will be able to be at the sharp end of the field more often. There is a lot of work ahead of us."


"We keep talking within the team about executing on race day and the whole team gets 10 out of 10 today," team president and managing partner Gil de Ferran said after the fourth place finish at Watkins Glen. "First, the engineers made some great decisions overnight and the crew made the car reliable. Second, we have been struggling lately with pit stops, but the crew was flawless today and even gained us a position on one of the stops. And last but certainly not least, Rafa drove a champion's race today. He was calm, cool and collected. He was extremely fast all day, running at the same pace as the leaders and attacked when he needed. In short, he was flawless and drove a really smart race."

-source: de ferran dragon racing

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Series IndyCar
Teams Dragon Racing