CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER SIMON PAGENAUD WINS IN EDMONTON FOR FIRST ATLANTIC VICTORY
 
 

EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 23, 2006) – It certainly wasn’t the first time that a Champ Car race weekend ended with a Frenchman atop the Victory Podium, but this one had a different look and feel.

This time, instead of Champ Car World Series defending champion and points leader Sebastien Bourdais hoisting the winner’s trophy while the national anthem of France played to a packed house, it was Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda leader Simon Pagenaud celebrating a dramatic victory Sunday in Edmonton.

Pagenaud, the 22-year-old native of Montmorillon, France, took advantage of late-race accident by polesitter Raphael Matos to claim his first Atlantic victory. The win at the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix Presented by The Brick Atlantic race also enabled the Team Australia rookie sensation to extend his lead in the series championship standings and the race for the $2 million champion’s Champ Car bonus.

Racing in front of a crowd of nearly 64,000 fans as the final race of the day at Edmonton’s City Centre Airport, the 23-car Atlantic field put on quite a show for the sun-baked faithful on a 100-degree day in the beautiful Canadian city. Matos, who established a new qualifying lap record while winning his second Atlantic pole on Saturday, led the field from a standing start at the 1.973-mile JAGflo Speedway airport road course.

While Matos enjoyed a strong start and immediately began to open up a lead on Pagenaud, who started second, third-place starter Graham Rahal didn’t enjoy a good launch. The 17-year-old son of former Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal fell back several spots at the start before starting to find his groove.

With several battles for position going on throughout the field, Pagenaud began to put pressure on Matos at the front midway through the 36-lap race. While Rahal went on the attack, first passing Germany’s Andreas Wirth for fourth place and then American Joe D’Agostino for third, Matos started clicking off very fast laps to try and keep Pagenaud in his rearview mirror.

After Pagenaud established a new Atlantic race record of 1:05.647 (108.200 mph) with the fastest lap of the race on Lap 24, the battle for first place began to get interesting. It still looked as if Matos would hold on for his first series victory, but with eight laps remaining, the Brazilian Sierra Sierra Enterprises rookie suffered heartbreak. He hit the Turn 12 wall, damaging his front and rear suspension and the damage forced him out of the race.

Pagenaud was there to pounce when the opportunity presented itself as he took command of the race. The protégé of Bourdais, the back-to-back Champ Car title-holder, resembled his mentor as he cruised to his first trip to Victory Circle, winning by 10.508 seconds at an average speed of 101.691 mph. The finish represented the fourth podium and seventh top-five result of the season for the former World Series by Renault racer. With the win, Pagenaud now boasts a 187-point total on the season and now leads the series standings by 18 points over Wirth, who sits second.

Rahal claimed second place for his fourth top-three result of his impressive rookie season. The series leader in victories with three, Sunday’s result marked the first time that Rahal finished among the top three when he wasn’t the winner of the race. Rahal remains third in the title chase, now 24 points behind Pagenaud.  

For the second year in a row, Wirth brought home a third-place finish for his fifth podium of 2006.

Wirth’s Forsythe Racing stablemate, Richard Philippe , scored his second-best series finish with a fourth-place result. Condor Motorsports rookie Danilo Dirani equaled his best Atlantic finish as he crossed the stripe in fifth place.

Jonathan Bomarito solidified his fourth place championship standing with his sixth top-10 result of the season. He made a couple of nice moves late in the race to claim sixth place. For the third consecutive race, Joe D’Agostino ) was seventh, equaling his best series result.