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Matos sets record to win pole
It’s no surprise that Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) is comfortable at the beach. A native of Brazil, where the country is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches, the 25-year-old Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer now lives in Miami where he frequently works out on the beach.

Matos has continued his beach bliss this weekend in the second round of the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. The series sophomore isn’t spending a lot of time on the sand at the Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but he has been King of the Beach as he’s led every single session in the Atlantic Championship as he continues to pad his lead in the series standings.

The winner of the opening race of the 2007 Atlantic season last week at Las Vegas, Matos kept his record clean on Saturday as he established a new track record at Long Beach while claiming his fifth career series pole. As he did on Friday while leading the opening round of qualifying, the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil got up to speed quickly after a red-flag caution late in the 35-minute afternoon qualifying to post a blistering lap of 1:15.724 (93.561 mph). The effort gives him another championship point as he now has 33 on the season, leading his closest pursuer by four markers.

Matos’ performance was disheartening to the other 29 Atlantic drivers in this weekend’s field looking to knock him off the pole, but it was particularly frustrating for both Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport)  and Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor). In the last five minutes of qualifying, both Bomarito and Perera claimed the top time, shattering the previous track record of 1:16.082 (93.121 mph) established by last season’s Long Beach pole- and race-winner Andreas Wirth.

But just seconds after the impressive laps recorded by Bomarito and Perera, Matos zoomed through to top the times, edging Perera off the pole by just two one-thousandths-of-a-second. Any chance of beating Matos’ mark was ended just a minute later when J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman Wachs Racing) went into the tires in Turn 1, bringing qualifying to an early end as the cleanup required from the accident would’ve surpassed the time remaining on the clock.

Perera earned his top qualifying result of second place in just his second series race. The French racer who competes for Condor Motorsports wound up clocking a fast lap of 1:15.726 (93.558 mph).

Bomarito qualified third for the second consecutive week after he registered a time of 1:16.035 (93.178 mph). After finishing third last week at Las Vegas, the Monterey, California native hopes to score another podium result in Sunday’s race (tape-delayed broadcast on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 19).

After finishing third in first-round qualifying, Alan Sciuto (#20 The RoomStore of Phoenix) of nearby Orange, California continued his solid weekend in only his second race competing for his newly-formed Alan Sciuto Racing team. Sciuto checked in fourth overall in qualifying as he owned a mark of 1:16.040 (93.172 mph). The top four drivers in Saturday’s qualifying all bettered the previous track record time.

Red Bull Team Forsythe’s John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK) scored his top qualifying effort of his young Atlantic career. The 16-year-old Little Rock, Arkansas native owned a top time of 1:16.196 (92.981 mph) to earn a fifth-place starting position on Sunday.

Italy’s Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) also produced his top qualifying effort of the new season as the Conquest Racing rookie raced to a fast lap of 1:16.221 (92.951 mph) to claim sixth. One week after winning the pole in his first Atlantic race, Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) of Red Bull Team Forsythe scored the seventh-fastest lap overall at 1:16.398 (92.735 mph).

Polestar Racing Group’s Ronnie Bremer (#12 The RoomStore of Phoenix/Sealy/PRG) turned in his best qualifying result since the 2004 season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca when he finished eighth with a time of 1:16.547 (92.555 mph). Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) of Condor Motorsports checked in with a lap of 1:16.582 (92.513 mph) while James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) completed the top-10 qualifiers with a fast lap of 1:16.635 (92.449 mph).

After a 15-minute morning warmup beginning at 8 a.m. PT Sunday morning, Round 2 of the 2007 Atlantic Championship will begin with a green-flag standing start at 10:35 a.m. The Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Challenge is scheduled for 50 minutes on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit.

For more information on North America’s premier open-wheel development series and to watch Sunday’s race live, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.

• The top 12 drivers in qualifying were separated by less than a second on the timing clock.
• Matos captured the $1,000 Cooper Tire Pole Award today for leading qualifying. Cooper has also agreed to donate a matching $1,000 at each race to the Hole-in-the-Wall Camps, an official charity of Champ Car

Quotes from the top three drivers from final qualifying follow:

Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises
“It’s been a perfect weekend for us. I was a little bit disappointed with the session because of the red flags, people were driving desperate out there. But we definitely had a very strong car in qualifying, I was expecting a lot more from lap times on a new set of tires but I was never able to get up to speed. I am just very happy that I am starting on pole and that I have Jonathan and Franck up front with me. I know they are very experienced drivers and they won’t do anything stupid at this point and I am just looking forward to racing with them tomorrow. I think we have to be strong on the restarts. I believe we have a consistent car, a very fast car. I have to be strong on the restarts and put my head down. On a street course you always try to drive 95% percent and not 100% because you don’t want to hit the wall.”

Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsports) of Condor Motorsports
“I’m pretty happy about qualifying. We had a tough qualifying with the flags. In Las Vegas it was the same. I had one lap on new tires and it was quite a good lap and so I am pretty happy to be on the first line with Raphael (Matos) because the weekend started very difficult for us, we had some problem with the car. It’s a new track for me and a bit different than Vegas. We had some problems but we worked a lot and found the speed on the new tires today so that’s good for the race and it’s good after two races to be on the front line. In Laguna (at the series test) it was different, we had a good test and we were quite competitive. And now it’s different, it’s a city track and it was not easy for me to find the right set-up on this car in Vegas and especially here. We had more problems yesterday and we found the speed and I hope now this will continue for all the season.”

Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports
“This morning’s practice was very productive, because it was a 45-minute session we were able to throw a lot of things at the car and really felt comfortable coming into today’s qualifying session. Once again, like the common trend in our qualifying sessions up to this point, red flags, traffic that sort of thing, was a little bit hard to deal with and hard to get into a rhythm and get momentum going as the session progresses. Right at the end there we had new tires and just like Vegas we had one or two laps to get it done, we just couldn’t put in a lap quite as good as these two guys. I knew I was on the best lap I had been on up to that point but we were on new tires and I was a bit disappointed that the lap time wasn’t considerably better than the 1:16.0 that I had put in. I knew there was more, basically go by start finish, do the first couple of corners, saw another car in the tire barriers and if you just try to hustle it back to the front straight maybe you can try and beat it before the red flag came out but I wasn’t that lucky today.”

Saturday’s final-round Atlanric qualifying results from Long Beach, with car number in parentheses, driver, car, top time and speed.

1.  (6) Raphael Matos, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, * 1:15.724, 93.561 mph.
2.  (11) Franck Perera Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:15.726, 93.558 mph.
3.  (23) Jonathan Bomarito, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.035, 93.178 mph.
4.  (20) Alan Sciuto, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.040, 93.172 mph.
5.  (7) John Edwards, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.196, 92.981 mph.
6.  (18) Giacomo Ricci, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.221, 992.951 mph.
7.  (3) Robert Wickens, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.398, 92.735 mph.
8.  (12) Ronnie Bremer, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.547, 92.555 mph.
9.  (16) Junior Strous, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.582, 92.513 mph.
10. (9) James Hinchcliffe, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.635, 92.449 mph.
11. (36) J.R. Hildebrand, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.650, 92.431 mph.
12. (44) Matt Lee, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.683, 92.391 mph. 
13. (24) Carl Skerlong, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.683, 92.331 mph.
14. (17) Adrian Carrio, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:16.834 92.209 mph.
15. (26) Justin Sofio, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.100, 91.891 mph.
16. (2) Tom Sutherland, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.145, 91.837 mph.
17. (15) Ryan Lewis, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.206, 91.765 mph.
18. (4) David Garza, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.216, 991.753 mph.
19. (5) Simona De Silvestro, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.261, 91.700 mph.
20. (45) Adrien Herberts, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.412, 991.521 mph.
21. (10) Joe D’Agostino, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.804, 91.060 mph.
22. (32) Mike Forest, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper a, 1:17.923, 90.921 mph.
23. (30) Luis Mussi, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.927, 90.916 mph.
24. (19) Brian Thienes, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:17.934, 90.908 mph.
25. (13) Frankie Muniz, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:18.192, 90.608 mph.
26. (22) Dominck Muermans, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper, 1:18.471, 90.286 mph.
27. (8) Tengyi Jiang, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper 1:18.581, 90.159 mph.
28. (37) Richard Heistand, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper 1:18.668, 90.059 mph.
28. (49) Dan Selznick, Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper 1:18.668, 90.059 mph.

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