RAPHAEL MATOS SHOWS SPEED IN EDMONTON, WINNING SECOND CAREER ATLANTIC POLE POSITION
 
 

EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 22, 2006) – Lady Luck hasn’t smiled often on Raphael Matos in his rookie season in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. Saturday, it was Sir Speed that was on the young Brazilian’s side as he snatched his second career Atlantic pole by leading the final round of qualifying for Sunday’s West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix Presented by The Brick Atlantic race.

Matos, the talented 24-year-old Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer, set aside his several frustrating results this season and showed his all out speed on the 1.973-mile JAGflo Speedway road circuit constructed at City Centre Airport. After leading the first practice session of the weekend at Edmonton and finishing fourth in first-round qualifying on Friday, Matos scorched a top time of 1:05.333 (108.717 mph) on his 13th of 18 laps in today’s 30-minute qualifying session. With 10 minutes remaining in qualifying after the impressive lap hit the scoreboard, several others tried their best to knock Matos off the pole, but they weren’t successful. As the checkered flag flew to bring an end to flag-free qualifying, Matos secured a new Atlantic track record at Edmonton and his first pole since Round 2 at Houston.

The result could signal a change of fortunes for the Belo Horizonte, Brazil native who now calls Miami, Florida home. After finishing on the podium in the season-opening race at Long Beach, Matos was on his way to his first series win in Houston when he and Graham Rahal got together in the closing laps of the race. The same two drivers also made contact while battling for the lead at Toronto in Round 7. Despite running consistently among the top drivers all season long in the Atlantic Championship, Matos entered this weekend ranked eighth in the title chase. With a strong start to Round 8 this weekend, he hopes to improve his standing in the point standings tomorrow as he continues to pursue his first series victory.

Rahal also enjoyed a good performance on Saturday. After finishing fifth in the first round of qualifying, the 17-year-old son of three-time Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal, worked with his Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team to find some speed overnight. Rahal posted the second-fastest lap of the weekend at 1:05.340 (108.705 mph) to clinch his sixth top-three start in eight races this season. The talented teen will line up third in Sunday’s race as series leader Simon Pagenaud locked up the second starting spot on Friday after leading provisional qualifying.

Pagenaud, the series leader who will take a 10-point lead over his next-closest championship pursuer into Sunday’s event, also performed well in final qualifying. The French rookie clocked a fast time of 1:05.346 (108.695 mph) as he secured his sixth front-row starting position of the season. Pagenaud will also be seeking his first series win on Sunday.

Germany’s Andreas Wirth , who sits second in the title chase behind Pagenaud, checked in fourth in Saturday’s qualifying with a lap of 1:05.441 (108.537 mph). Wirth’s Forsythe Championship Racing teammate, 16-year-old Richard Philippe, scored his second-best Atlantic qualifying performance. Philippe owned a top lap of 1:05.612 (108.255 mph) and will start fifth at Edmonton. Jonathan Bomarito of PR1 Motorsports qualified among the top six for the sixth time this season. The California series sophomore was sixth in the qualifying results with a time of 1:05.617 (108.246 mph).

American Joe D’Agostino continued his recent improvement and earned his best starting position of his young Atlantic career as he carded the seventh-fastest lap of the day at 1:05.648 (108.195 mph).

Toronto native James Hinchcliffe, currently ranked fifth in the Atlantic standings, emerged as the top qualifying Canadian. The Forsythe Racing rookie recorded a time of 1:05.687 (108.131 mph) to slot in eighth in the order. Danilo Dirani of Condor Motorsports was ninth at 1:05.739 (108.045 mph), while British racer Tim Bridgman completed the top 10 with a lap of 1:05.831 (107.894 mph).