Portland Atlantic Series preview
INDIANAPOLIS – Since taking the lead from Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) with three laps remaining in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season-opening Vegas Grand Prix in April, Sierra Sierra Enterprises driver Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) has not looked back.
Matos claimed the victory in Las Vegas opener, and then followed with flag-to-flag victories in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Fast Trac 100 in Houston to become the first driver in more than 17 years to open an Atlantic season with three consecutive victories. The last driver to accomplish the feat was Mark Dismore, who won five straight en route to the 1990 Atlantic Series Pacific Division title.
Matos has also led the last 77 consecutive laps and has headed the field for nearly 78 percent of the total laps completed (99) thus far in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, in addition to starting the last two events from the pole position. As a result, the second-year Atlantic driver from Belo Horizonte, Brazil stands atop the points table heading into this weekend’s doubleheader at the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe’s Sports and Outdoor. Matos currently holds a 23-point advantage over Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor), 98-75, with a quarter of the season in the books.
However, Matos knows that his win streak—the longest since Jon Fogarty won three-in-a-row on his way to the 2004 Atlantic title—and his championship lead is anything but safe heading into this weekend’s doubleheader on the 1.964-mile, 10-turn permanent road course at Portland International Raceway (Round 4 – Saturday, June 9 – 12:15 p.m. PT, Round 5 – Sunday, June 10 – 11:00 a.m. PT).
Chief among those likely to knock Matos from his perch and end the win streak is Bomarito. The Californian has not finished worse than fourth thus far in 2007 and earned podium results with a second-place run in Round 2 at Long Beach and a third-place showing in the Las Vegas season-opener. Bomarito—who picked up his first Atlantic victory in the 2006 season finale at Road America—is riding a streak of four consecutive top-four performances dating to last season. Bomarito is joined on the two-car PR1 Motorsports team by Canadian racer Mike Forest (#32 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor/Earthwater).
Matos may not need to look any further than his own Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate, James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) when looking for candidates that could end his win streak this weekend. Hinchcliffe, who hails from Toronto, picked up his first career Atlantic victory last year at Portland and has finished inside the top-seven positions in each of the first three races this season. He picked up his season-best result of third in Round 3 at Houston and is currently third in the championship standings, nine points in arrears of Bomarito.
Wickens is another potential winner from the Red Bull Team Forsythe operation. The 18-year-old rookie from Toronto opened his inaugural Atlantic campaign with a bang by starting the Vegas Grand Prix from the pole position and finishing second. He followed that outing with a third-place run in Long Beach before a 10th-place performance in Houston. Wickens is currently fourth in the overall point standings and leads the Rookie of the Year championship. He is teamed with 16-year-old American John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK), who owns a best result of fourth at Long Beach.
Wickens is just two points clear of French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport), who has also enjoyed a strong start to his maiden Atlantic season. Perera has finished fifth in all three of his Atlantic starts to date and has started each of the last two races from inside the top-three positions. Perera leads a three-car entry for Condor Motorsports, which also includes rookies Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) and Brian Thienes (#19 Thienes Engineering).
Atlantic veteran Ronnie Bremer (#12 The Room Store) is currently sixth in the overall Atlantic championship standings with three straight top-nine results to open the season. The Dane has two previous Portland starts—both of which came in a doubleheader in 2004—with a best result of eighth. Bremer is joined in a two-car effort from Polestar Racing Group by rookie Bret MacDonald (#21 Brelia Ent./BAM/BCP/Rock House).
The American Pacific Northwest race fans will have one of their own to cheer on as Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT), who hails from Mukilteo, Wash., will contest his first Atlantic event on his “home track” this weekend. Skerlong—an Atlantic rookie in 2007—is carrying the momentum of a career-best second-place result in Round 3 at Houston. Skerlong is part of a two-car entry for US RaceTronics alongside Mexican rookie David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT). Likewise, Canadian residents of the Pacific coast making the trek to Portland will also have a favorite in rookie Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports), who hails from Coquitlam, British Columbia.
As is the case in all 2007 Atlantic events, the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland will have a decided Hollywood flair. Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman and his team co-owner Eddie Wachs will field 2006 Cooper Tires Formula Ford champion J.R. Hildebrand (#36 Newman-Wachs Racing). Also, television and motion picture star Frankie Muniz (#13 Chandler Development) will continue his progress toward a professional racing career as part of a two-car effort for Jensen MotorSport. Muniz is teamed with Tom Sutherland (#2 Clickaway Computer).
Simona De Silvestro (#5 Deans Knight/Wasteco) will be the lone woman in the 28-car field driving for long-time Champ Car World Series stalwarts Walker Racing. De Silvestro, a native of Switzerland, is teamed with Englishman Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI/Deans Knight/Wasteco). Conquest Racing is another Champ Car World Series operation with an Atlantic program, fielding Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) and American rookie Matt Lee (#44 Integrated Structures). Ricci is currently eighth in the championship standings, while Lee is currently ranked 14th.
Alan Sciuto (#20 The Room Store of Phoenix) completes the top 10 in the championship standings and finished fourth in his first Portland appearance last year. Trailing Sciuto by just two points, 36-34 is Atlantic veteran Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments). Sofio heads to Portland, where he has made three previous Atlantic starts, with top-11 results in each of his first three starts of the 2007 season with Mathiasen Motorsports.
Eleven different nationalities are represented in the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland field, including Chinese rookie Tengyi Jiang (#8 Champ Car Grand Prix of China) and his Brooks Associates Racing teammate, Canadian rising star Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select), who will make his debut in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship this weekend. The field will be further strengthened by 18-year-old Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) and his Genoa Racing teammate, rookie Richard Heistand (#37 Eola Capital Investments), as well as Atlantic veteran Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store of Phoenix).
On-track activities for the Champ Car Atlantic Championship get underway on Friday, June 8 with a 45-minute practice session which takes the green flag at 8:45 a.m. PT. Friday’s schedule also includes qualifying from 12:35 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. for Saturday’s Round 4, as well as a driver autograph session from 3:45 to 4:15 p.m. at the Cooper Tires display at the track.
Saturday’s schedule will see the Atlantic machines on course to qualify for Sunday’s Round 5 from 8:10 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. PT, followed by Round 4 of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, Race #1 of the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, which will begin from a standing start at 12:15 p.m. for a 50-minute race. Saturday’s Atlantic schedule concludes with a final practice session from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m. Round 5 of the season and Race #2 of the weekend will roll off from a standing start at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.
All Atlantic cars are Swift 016.a Atlantic chassis powered by 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth MZR engines capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Each entry will ride on new Cooper Atlantic racing slicks and rain tires throughout the weekend.
Both races will be televised on ESPN2, with Round 4 airing from 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. ET on Monday, June 18, followed immediately by Round 5 from 5:30 to 6:00 p.m. The races will also air to U.S. service men and women in over 130 countries around the world through the American Forces Radio & Television Service.
For additional information and to watch all of this season’s races on demand, visit the official web site of North America’s premier open-wheel development series, www.champcaratlantic.com.
COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA
MAZDA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND PRESENTED BY JOE’S SPORTS AND OUTDOOR
MEDIA TIP SHEET
• Oregon Trail: Atlantic has been racing at Portland International Raceway since 1984 and has contested 13 events on the 1.964-mile permanent road course. Only two drivers, Tonis Kasemets and two-time Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty, have won more than one event at Portland. Fogarty won both races in a doubleheader in 2004, while Kasemets claimed a doubleheader victory in 2005. No Atlantic driver has started from the pole position at Portland more than once.
• Cranking It Up: This weekend’s doubleheader at Portland marks the first race weekend for the Atlantic Championship since the Fast Trac 100 at Houston on Sunday, April 22, a span of more than six weeks. However, this weekend’s events kick off a grueling stretch that will see the final nine events completed in a span of nine weeks between Portland and the season finale at Road America on August 12. The series will have three races in-a-row beginning in Cleveland on June 24, followed by Mont-Tremblant on July 1 and Toronto on July 8. After a one-week layoff, the series returns to action with another doubleheader in Edmonton on July 21 and 22 with the penultimate round of the championship slated for July 29 in San Jose.
• Fantastic Full Field: With 28 cars expected to start this weekend’s races, it will mark the fourth and fifh consecutive events with 27 entries or more for the Atlantics to start the year. April’s race at Long Beach featured 30 cars – the most for the series since the Montreal event in 1999.
• Make Way For Matos: Atlantic racing fans might get a chance to witness some series history this weekend if Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer Raphael Matos has his way. Matos has won the first three events of 2007, capturing the season opener at Las Vegas, leading all 31 laps in Round 2 at Long Beach and taking another flag-to-flag victory in Round 3 at Houston. If he wins his fourth and fifth straight in this weekend’s doubleheader, he’ll become the first Atlantic driver to win the first five events of the season since Mark Dismore captured five-in-a-row to open the 1990 Atlantic Pacific Division Championship on his way to the series crown. He is also the first driver since Jon Fogarty won Rounds 3-5 (at Milwaukee and the Portland doubleheader) to win three consecutive Atlantic events. He has led the last 77 consecutive laps of Atlantic competition.
• Who’s Hot: Not surprisingly, Matos is on the best roll of any driver entering Portland. In addition to his season-opening three victories this year, the Brazilian now has a total of four victories and six podium finishes from his last seven Atlantic starts dating to last season. Jonathan Bomarito is also rolling with top-four performances in each of his last four series starts dating back to last season, while rookie Franck Perera has finished fifth in all three of his career starts in Atlantic competition. Matos, Bomarito and Perera are the only three drivers in the series to have finished inside the top five in all three races thus far this season.
• We Are The Champions: Champions from some of the top developmental series from around the world will compete in Atlantics this season. Nearly all of the open-wheel training grounds in North America will feature last season’s champions competing in Atlantics in ’07 including the Star Mazda Series (Adrian Carrio), Formula BMW USA (Robert Wickens), FF2000 (J.R. Hildebrand) and Formula TR 2000 (Carl Skerlong). In addition, rookie Giacomo Ricci claimed the F3000 Italian and Euro titles in 2006. Atlantics will also include race winners and standout competitors from not only these formulas but also from the Skip Barber National Championship and top international series including A1GP, GP2 and European Formula Renault.
• Youth is Served: It’s safe to say that the ’07 Atlantic field is the youngest in series history. Among the 28 drivers expected to compete this weekend in Portland, the median age is just 24 years. If you remove from the equation veteran drivers Brian Thienes, Dan Sezlnick and Bret MacDonald—all of whom are above 40 years old—the average age for the rest of the field is just 20.9 years. This includes 12 series racers who will line up for this weekend’s races as teenagers. The youngest of them all is John Edwards of Red Bull Team Forsythe, who is 16 and is the youngest driver in Atlantic history.
• Rookies Aplenty: The evergrowing youth in the series translates into a very deep rookie class for 2007. Out of the 28 expected entries this weekend 28 of those drivers are considered rookies for this season. The battle for series Rookie of the Year honors is expected to be almost as heated as the fight for the overall series crown. Robert Wickens currently leads the rookie standings with 65 points, just two ahead of Franck Perera.
• Going Global: The international appeal of Atlantic racing has also never been more evident than in 2007. Drivers representing 11 different countries are expected to be in action this weekend including competitors from the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Brazil and China.
• American Pride: Despite such a diverse cultural background among the series drivers, the future of American open-wheel racing is just as bright as ever as evidenced by the U.S. talent in Atlantics. Half of this weekend’s field – or 14 drivers in all – calls the United States home.
COOPER TIRES PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA
MAZDA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND PRESENTED BY JOE’S
WHAT: Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe’s
WHERE: Portland International Raceway – Portland, Ore., June 8-10
CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local): FRIDAY, JUNE 8 – 8:45-9:30 a.m., Practice; 12:35-1:10 p.m., Qualifying for Race #1. SATURDAY, JUNE 9 – 8:10-8:45 a.m., Qualifying for Race #2; 12:15-1:15 p.m., Atlantic Race #1; 4:30-4:45 p.m., Practice. SUNDAY, JUNE 10 – 11 a.m.-12 p.m., Atlantic Race #2.
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: MONDAY, JUNE 18 – ESPN2, Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe’s Atlantic races from 5-6 p.m. ET.
2006 PORTLAND CHAMPION: James Hinchcliffe
2006 PORTLAND POLESITTER: Graham Rahal
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.964-mile permanent road course
RACE LENGTH: 50-minute time limit
TRACK RECORDS (based on current layout): Qualifying (one lap) – 2006, Graham Rahal, 1:04.628 (109.401 mph). Race – (one lap) 2006, Joe D’Agostino, 1:05.680 (107.650 mph)
RACE ROUND: 4 and 5 of 12 in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda
NEXT RACE: The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland – Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, June 22-24
INSTANT REPLAY: James Hinchcliffe won the race of attrition in the 2006 Portland Atlantic race, scoring his first career series victory. The action started early at PIR as pole-winner Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud, starting second, made contact with each other right after taking the green flag. The incident ended Rahal’s day while Pagenaud would also eventually retire. In his first Atlantic race, Ryan Lewis took control after the opening-lap dustup and he paced the first 15 laps of the race. Raphael Matos got by Lewis for the lead on a race re-start on Lap 16, but Lewis reclaimed the point on the 23rd orbit of the event. It appeared that the young Brit would win in his series debut, but he experienced gearbox issues on the penultimate lap and his car began leaking oil. After Joe D’Agostino also fell out of the race with mechanical issues while running second a few laps earlier, Hinchcliffe saw his opportunity. The Canadian rookie moved steadily up through the field from his eighth-place starting spot and he was in the right place at the right time when Lewis began to slow on the final lap. Hinchcliffe zoomed into the race lead and cruised to the finish line 4.120 seconds ahead of Lewis, who limped home in second. Andreas Wirth, the series leader entering the weekend, recovered from a 12th-place starting position to claim third place. Wirth extended his lead in the standings with the podium result while Hinchcliffe took command of second place overall with the win. Pagenaud, the eventual Atlantic champion, remained third in the standings despite a 23rd-place finish – the worst of his remarkable rookie season.
VITAL 2006 RACE STATISTICS:
Time of Race: 47:22.170
Average Speed: 99.507 mph
Margin of Victory: 4.120 seconds
Caution Flags: 1 for 4 laps
Lap Leaders: Ryan Lewis, 1-15; Raphael Matos, 16-23; Ryan Lewis, 24-39; James Hinchcliffe, 40-40
GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND ATLANTIC RACE HISTORY (13 events, 1984-88; 2002-Present)
Year Race winner Pole winner
1984 Dan Marvin Dan Marvin
1985 Jeff Wood Jeff Wood
1986 Ted Prappas Tom Phillips
1987 Dean Hall Ted Prappas
1987 R.K. Smith Jimmy Vasser
1988 Mitch Thieman Mitch Thieman
2002 Luis Diaz Luis Diaz
2003 Ryan Dalziel Ryan Dalziel
2004 Jon Fogarty Jon Fogarty
2004 Jon Fogarty Danica Patrick
2005 Tonis Kasemets Andreas Wirth
2005 Tonis Kasemets Tonis Kasemets
2006 James Hinchcliffe Graham Rahal
Multiple Race Winners
Jon Fogarty, 2004 (two wins)
Tonis Kasemets, 2005 (two wins)
Multiple Pole Winners