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Watkins Glen: de Ferran Dragon Racing preview

Watkins Glen: de Ferran Dragon Racing preview
Jul 2, 2010, 7:19 AM

BACK AT THE GLEN After suffering some bad luck in the 2009 Camping World Grand Prix, the de Ferran Dragon Racing Team returns to Watkins Glen hoping that better luck and a year of experience can propel them into a race with the leaders in 2010.


After suffering some bad luck in the 2009 Camping World Grand Prix, the de Ferran Dragon Racing Team returns to Watkins Glen hoping that better luck and a year of experience can propel them into a race with the leaders in 2010. Raphael Matos was able recover from a poor starting position (18th), a lap one spinout and a malfunctioning fuel sensor to improve six positions and finish a respectable 12th in the team's first ever race at The Glen. "It was a top 10 car for sure," Matos said. "We just had some refueling problems that kept us from finishing higher. It was too bad because it really was a great effort by the team." The faulty fuel sensor would allow only 21 gallons of fuel to load instead of the full 22 gallons, which caused the team to pit a lap earlier than everyone else on each stint. Even though the team's pit stops were flawless from a timing and execution standpoint, the shorter stints cost Matos as many as four positions in the pits late in the race.


Before rallying to finish 12th at Watkins Glen last year, Matos overcame a scary chain reaction incident on lap one that sent him into a 360-spin. He avoided a collision with Helio Castroneves, which caused Ryan Hunter-Reay to contact the #2 car from behind, sending Matos into the spin. He avoided further contact, recovered and continued to race. "I just caught my breath after the spin and went flat out," Matos said. "I was very lucky."


2009 was the first Watkins Glen appearance for the de Ferran Dragon team, but not for Matos, who raced twice at the Glen and finished first and second in the Firestone Indy Lights races in 2008. Matos led 26 of the 28 laps to win the first of two Corning Duels races by over two seconds. In a random drawing to determine starting positions for the second race, Matos drew sixth but climbed his way into second before being held off late by Richard Antinucci.


"I love Watkins Glen. First, it's a beautiful place on top of a mountain and the 4th of July always makes it special. It's one of my favorite tracks and fits my style well. It's a fast flowing track with some 90-degree corners, which I really like. I won the Indy Lights race there in 2008 and I'm excited to get back. When we raced there last year it was our first time as a team with no testing. We had no baseline at all and that makes it very difficult. You have to have a good baseline because it's so hard to catch up when you start slow."


The de Ferran Dragon Racing team will get some additional road work in when they test at Mid Ohio on Wednesday June 30. "That's an important test for us," Matos said. "We need to make some positive steps in Ohio because there will be some things we can learn and carry over to the Watkins Glen setup."


"We only have last year as a reference for what the team did at the Glen. We are hoping to hone our Road Course set up and test a few development items during this week's mid Ohio test. Ideally, this should not only help our performance in Mid Ohio, but also at all the up coming road courses, such as the Glen."


Watkins Glen represents the halfway point of the season and the de Ferran Dragon team finds itself in 14th. It's also how team president and managing partner Gil de Ferran assesses the team's performance thus far. "It is easy to grade the team, we just have to look at the Championship table, that is the only grading that counts. In reality, I feel we have been unable to capitalize on our full potential. In various races we did not execute well on race day and therefore didn't bring as many points as we could have. Looking ahead we need to execute better on race day as well as try to improve our speed on a consistent basis."


While the team looks to improve heading into the second half of the season, de Ferran has been impressed by Raphael Matos' skills. "Rafa is becoming quite an effective driver in all types of circuits. Even though he came from a road course background he is proving to be an excellent oval racer, as we could clearly witness in Indy. There is always room for improvement in every count, team, driver, etc. As I cast my mind back to my driving days, I felt I was getting better at what I did until the day I retired, so the sky is the limit for Rafa."


After four consecutive oval races, the series now shifts back to the road at Watkins Glen, where the de Ferran Dragon team hopes to get back on track. Matos was ranked ninth after the first four road/street course events, but has since fallen to 14th. Matos has averaged 21 points on the road/street courses and just 14.5 on the ovals this season. "I always feel like I have a chance to win, but on road courses, if we do a good job and take positive steps I believe we can be a top 5 team," Matos said. "And if you are consisitently in the top five you will have a chance to win." The next five races will be on road and street courses.


For Raphael Matos and the de Ferran Dragon Racing team, the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway was like déjà vu all over again. For the second consecutive race, the team delivered a stronger racecar than qualifying car and Matos used it to improve seven positions to finish 14th, but had even bigger gains derailed by problems in the pits. Starting 21st, Matos had steady improvement from the start and jumped to 16th by the 37th lap, but trouble lurked when he came in under yellow on the 53rd lap. A leak in the team's air bottle wiped out the air pressure for the jack and three of the tire guns. A quick bottle change fixed the problem, but cost Matos a lap and three positions.

-source: dfdr

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