Franck Perera wins first Atlantics race
French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport) kept his streak of top-five finishes in the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda alive in a big way by taking his first career victory in the Champ Car Mont-Tremblant (ESPN2, July 6, 6:00 p.m. ET).
After starting from the pole position, Perera made it look easy in leading every lap on his way to a 20.486-second victory over points leader Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks). Perera became the third driver in the past four Atlantic events to earn his first career victory in the series. The performance enabled the Condor Motorsports driver to move into third place in the overall championship standings and also take over the lead in the Rookie of the Year standings. With seven of 12 races completed in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, Perera remains the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in every race.
With a second-place run, Matos picked up his fifth top-two result of the season and managed to extend his lead in the championship standings. The race was not without its drama for Matos, however, as the Brazilian noticed his motor beginning to sputter with two laps remaining and ran out of fuel coming off the final turn on the last lap. Nevertheless, he was able to coast across the stripe just ahead of his Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate, James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks). Matos now leads Hinchcliffe by 33 points, 201-168, with Perera just two points behind Hinchcliffe in third.
Hinchcliffe picked up his fourth podium result in the past five Atlantic races with his third-place performance. From fifth on the starting grid, Hinchcliffe moved past Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) and into fourth place on the standing start and chased Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) for most of the race before Ricci seemingly ran out of fuel on the final lap. Hinchcliffe has now finished inside the top seven in every race this season and was the highest-finishing Canadian at Mont-Tremblant on Canada Day.
American Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) made it four different nationalities in the top-four finishing positions with a fourth-place run. Bomarito got a terrific start from eighth on the grid to settle in behind Hinchcliffe. It was the PR1 Motorsports driver’s best result since a fourth-place performance in Round 3 at Houston and was his fourth top-four result of the season.
Wickens completed the top five with a fifth-place showing for Red Bull Team Forsythe. It was Wickens’ sixth top-five performance in seven races this season and he has finished inside the top 10 in every race this year. However, Wickens lost one position in the overall championship standings and also slipped to second in the Rookie of the Year point standings. Wickens is now fourth in the overall championship and now trails new rookie leader Perera by five points, 166-161.
In a heartbreaking finish, Ricci wound up sixth after starting a career-best third. Nevertheless, it was the Italian’s second consecutive top-six result and was his third top-six performance of the season. The result enabled him to gain one position in the overall championship standings and he now stands sixth with 102 points, 14 behind fifth-place Bomarito.
Despite cold and gray conditions, the race was slowed by full-course caution only once, for two laps, when Tom Sutherland (#2 Drive Energy Soda) slid off-course and into the Turn 14 gravel trap.
• Simona De Silvestro (#5 Miauton) had far and away her best result thus far in her rookie Champ Car Atlantic Championship season. One day after posting a career-best sixth-place qualifying result, De Silvestro came home with a seventh-place result in the race for Walker Racing. Her previous best performance was an 11th-place run last weekend in Cleveland.
• Quebec fan favorite Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select) finished eighth in his home race. The Saint-Eustache, Quebec native now owns two top-eight results in his four career Atlantic starts and picked up his first Atlantic victory two races ago in the second race of the Portland doubleheader for Brooks Associates Racing.
• Rookie Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT) claimed the bonus point for the race’s fastest lap, which he achieved on Lap 13 at 1:27.157 (108.260 mph). The US RaceTronics driver finished 19th in the race.
• One week after rolling over following contact in the Grand Prix of Cleveland, Canadian rookie Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports) picked up the bonus point for improving the most positions in the race. Herberts started 23rd and finished 17th, an improvement of seven spots. It was the second time this season that Herberts earned the most improved positions bonus point, the other coming in the second race of the Portland doubleheader.
Quotes from the top-three finishers in the race follow below:
FRANCK PERERA (#11 CJ Motorsports) of Condor Motorsports: “It was a great race. I’m really happy, because for me the start was the most important thing. I knew that my car was really competitive for the long run. Obviously, yesterday I was on the pole and was quickest in the warm-up this morning. My start was great. I had such a big gap already after the first corner. We had a safety car, but then I had a great car again. The car was great. The Condor team did a really good job this weekend. They are really getting so much better. I managed my gap. I could, for sure, push more in the end, but my gap was huge. It was incredible. I could drive, really, anywhere. It’s great for everything. It’s a lot of emotion for me. It’s a long time that I needed that, and after my season last year. I want to thank CJ for giving me a chance to race in America and to continue my dream of racing, and Everflux. I also want to thank my family. For the first time in a long time, they’re here.”
RAPHAEL MATOS (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “I was a little bit disappointed during the race. We just didn’t have quite the pace to keep up with Franck. I started running out of fuel with two laps to go, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. On the last lap, I was basically half-throttle the whole track. I thought that I was not going to make it. When I crossed the line and I finished the race, I was so happy. That was one of the best races of the season just to finish this race. Again, Sierra Sierra gave me one of the best cars on the grid. I’m very happy that I extended my points lead in the championship. I’m just looking forward to the next few races. I believe that we’re going to be very strong in Toronto and also in Edmonton. It was a quite difficult weekend for us, especially in qualifying. We just didn’t have the pace to get the pole. Hopefully, we’ll make some progress from now to the end.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “The race for me was exciting at the beginning, exciting at the end and kind of lonely in the middle. I got a pretty good start and managed to get ahead of Robbie (Wickens), and I was just running fourth for most of the race. I was trying to keep up with Giacomo (Ricci) and manage the gap back to Jonathan (Bomarito). I guess it was on the second-to-last lap, I noticed that we kind of caught Giacomo by a big gap. I wasn’t sure why, if he had made a mistake or if he was developing a problem. On the last lap, I could see that he definitely had an issue. I’m assuming he was running out of fuel. We got a run on him coming down the back straight and he was kind of running in the middle of the track, so, rightly or wrongly, I opted for the outside line. I just managed to make it stick and got ahead of him. I guess Rafa (Matos) was having a bit of problems on the last lap, as well, with fuel. If the start/finish line would have been about 10 feet further back, I think we would have had second. We didn’t have the quickest car today, but we had one that made it to the finish. Once again, Sierra Sierra has given us such a good car and more importantly gave me enough fuel to make it to the end. That was the difference between being on the podium and not today.”
FP Car# Driver Team Laps Gap Status
1 11 Franck Perera Condor Motorsports 34 0.000 Running
2 6 Raphael Matos Sierra Sierra Enterprises 34 20.486 Running
3 9 James Hinchcliffe Sierra Sierra Enterprises 34 20.843 Running
4 23 Jonathan Bomarito PR1 Motorsports 34 21.841 Running
5 3 Robert Wickens Red Bull Team Forsythe 34 22.481 Running
6 18 Giacomo Ricci Conquest Racing 34 23.163 Running
7 5 Simona De Silvestro Walker Racing 34 24.486 Running
8 10 Kevin Lacroix Brooks Associates Racing 34 26.062 Running
9 36 J.R. Hildebrand Newman Wachs Racing 34 26.847 Running
10 44 Matt Lee Conquest Racing 34 36.236 Running
11 7 John Edwards Red Bull Team Forsythe 34 38.878 Running
12 20 Alan Sciuto Alan Sciuto Racing 34 39.382 Running
13 15 Ryan Lewis Walker Racing 34 39.807 Running
14 26 Justin Sofio Mathiasen Motorsports 34 45.150 Running
15 4 David Garza US RaceTronics 34 45.655 Running
16 17 Adrian Carrio Genoa Racing 34 1:03.761 Running
17 45 Adrien Herberts Paladin Motorsports 34 1:15.649 Running
18 32 Mike Forest PR1 Motorsports 34 1:22.477 Running
19 24 Carl Skerlong US RaceTronics 34 1:23.123 Running
20 19 Brian Thienes Condor Motorsports 34 1:24.639 Running
21 13 Frankie Muniz Jensen MotorSport 14 20 Laps Mechanical
22 37 Richard Heistand Genoa Racing 12 22 Laps Mechanical
23 16 Junior Strous Condor Motorsports 3 31 Laps Contact
24 2 Tom Sutherland Jensen MotorSport 1 33 Laps Contact