Bomarito wins race, Matos championship
The San Jose Grand Prix at Redback Raceway (ESPN2, 8/3, 5:30 p.m. ET) featured two Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda celebrations, as local driver Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) picked up his first victory of the season and Brazilian Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) clinched the series championship and the $2 million prize toward a 2008 Champ Car World Series ride with a fourth-place performance.
After starting from the pole position for the first time in his Atlantic career, Bomarito—a resident of nearby Monterey, Calif.—led every lap en route to the victory, beating French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport) to the stripe by 0.898 seconds. It was Bomarito’s first Atlantic victory since taking the 2006 season finale at Road America and was his fourth podium result of the season. It was also Bomarito’s second consecutive top-two result, as he finished second in the second race of the doubleheader at the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton one week earlier, and he moved back into fifth in the championship standings.
Cementing his place at the top of the championship standings, however, was Matos. The Brazilian started fourth and moved to third entering Turn 1 after the standing start. He spent most of the race trailing Perera in third place, but surrendered the position to Canadian Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) in Turn 1 on a restart with six laps remaining and settled into fourth, where he would finish. The result—Matos’ 10th top-four performance in 11 races this season—was enough to secure the title, as Matos departs San Jose with a 36-point lead over Perera, 314-278, and a maximum of only 34 points are still available in the 2007 season finale at Road America in two weeks. Matos will be honored as the 2007 champion in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship Awards Banquet at The American Club in Kohler, Wis. on the evening of Sunday, August 12.
It was the third North American title for Matos, as he previously claimed the Star Mazda championship in 2005 and the Formula Dodge National Championship in 2003. It was the first Champ Car Atlantic title for perennial front-runners Sierra Sierra Enterprises, which finished second in both the 2003 and 2004 seasons with current Champ Car World Series competitor Ryan Dalziel as its driver, and the team returned to Atlantic competition after a one-year absence last season.
Despite a valiant effort on both accounts, Perera wound up second in both the San Jose Grand Prix and the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship point standings. It was the Condor Motorsports driver’s seventh consecutive podium result and he remains the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in every race. Perera has wrapped-up second place in the overall championship and also clinched the series Rookie of the Year honors, as he holds a 40-point advantage over Wickens.
The third-place performance for Wickens was his fourth podium result of the season and his first podium since winning the first race of the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland doubleheader in June. Wickens owns top-five results in eight of 11 races this season. He also claimed the bonus point for running the fastest lap in the San Jose Grand Prix.
Finishing a career-best fifth was Dutch rookie Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) for Condor Motorsports. Strous’ previous best result in Atlantic competition was a sixth-place run in the 2007 season-opener in Las Vegas, and it was his fourth top-nine result eight starts this season. Strous did not compete in Round 3 at Houston as a result of a wrist injury he sustained at Round 2 in Long Beach, and lingering effects from that injury also kept him out of the doubleheader at the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton last weekend.
• For the second consecutive weekend, American rookie Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) earned an Atlantic career-best result with a sixth-place run in the San Jose Grand Prix. Carrio posted a seventh-place result in the first race of the Edmonton doubleheader last weekend.
• Alan Sciuto (#20 WS Deans/The Room Store) earned his sixth top-seven result in 11 races with a seventh-place result in the San Jose Grand Prix. It was also Sciuto’s second top-seven result in San Jose, as he also finished fourth in the inaugural Atlantic event at Redback Raceway in 2005.
• Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments) claimed his third consecutive top-nine result in San Jose with an eighth-place run. Sofio previously finished eighth in San Jose last year and was ninth in 2005. The result allowed Sofio to move back into 10th in the championship standings with one race remaining.
• For the second time in four races, American rookie Frankie Muniz (#13 Chandler Development) earned the bonus point for improving the most positions from start to finish. Muniz charged from 24th on the grid to finish 11th—an improvement of 13 positions—and came home two spots behind his Atlantic career-best result of ninth, which he achieved three weeks ago in Toronto.
Quotes from the top-three finishers in the San Jose Grand Prix and the 2007 championship-winning driver and team owner follow below:
ROBERT WICKENS (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) of Red Bull Team Forsythe: “Basically, everybody in the top four was so evenly-matched. Unless someone made a mistake, the gap stayed exactly the same. Luckily, on the restart, I got a run and got around Rafa (Matos). I think Rafa was a little bit conservative and made a little bit of an error coming out of Corner 7 and I was able to take advantage of it and pass him in Corner 1.”
FRANCK PERERA (#11 CJ Motorsport) of Condor Motorsports: “It’s good to be on the podium again, for sure. It was a tough, tough race. Jonathan (Bomarito) was really quick all this weekend and I fought a lot to be close to him in qualifying and the race, too. For me, what was really important was the start again and the safety car, and I tried everything to overtake him, because I had better restarts on the safety car, and also my start was better, I think. It’s really difficult to overtake and the first corner is really small. I was not able to get the pass. I tried everything to keep the pressure on him, but he had a really good race and he was really quick this weekend. For me, it was a great season. We had, for sure, a difficult start of the season, but we caught Sierra (Sierra Enterprises). In the end, it was not enough. I want to thank again Condor Motorsports, who did a really good job this year. For sure, CJ Motorsport gave me the chance to race in America. It’s a great country. The series also gave me a chance and it’s a really nice series. I want to thank all the people. I will be happy, for sure, if I come back (to Atlantic), but I hope I will be in Champ Car, too, with Rafa (Matos).”
JONATHAN BOMARITO (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports: “It just feels incredible. Being here in San Jose, I have so many friends and family here, and just the season we’ve had up to this point, it’s just a remarkable feeling. It’s been a tremendous weekend from the second we put the car on the track. It’s been really good. I can’t thank the team and the guys enough. When you have such an up-and-down season, to stay positive week-in and week-out and keep working as hard as they have is very difficult to do. My hat’s off to the whole Miracle Sealants/PR1 team. It’s great to be back up here. What a great feeling.”
RAPHAEL MATOS (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I can’t really describe what I’m feeling right now. It’s definitely like a dream coming true. I worked my whole life and I dreamed about this moment. I dreamed about being in Champ Car. I wanted to go to Formula 1, and my plans changed in 2002, when I came to the U.S. Since I first came to the U.S., I had a goal in my life, and it was driving a Champ Car. Winning the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, definitely, was the best way to put myself in a good position to be in Champ Car. I just can’t thank enough the Sierra Sierra/ProWorks team. This is the second year that they gave me the chance to drive this car. They are like a family for me. I love them for life, and I appreciate very much what they’ve done for me.”
STACEY BEHRENDT, Owner, Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “It just feels amazing to be here today after a couple of years of coming in second (in the championship), struggling a little bit last year, and then coming back this year with Raphael and put everything together. It’s been an amazing season. It’s been so much fun.”
FP Driver Laps Lag Status
1 Jonathan Bomarito 48 0.000 Running
2 Franck Perera 48 0.897 Running
3 Robert Wickens 48 2.519 Running
4 Raphael Matos 48 3.613 Running
5 Junior Strous 48 4.465 Running
6 Adrian Carrio 48 5.115 Running
7 Alan Sciuto 48 7.264 Running
8 Justin Sofio 48 7.659 Running
9 Ronnie Bremer 48 8.151 Running
10 Simona De Silvestro 48 8.770 Running
11 Frankie Muniz 48 13.854 Running
12 Richard Heistand 48 14.451 Running
13 Tom Sutherland 48 20.665 Running
14 Brian Thienes 47 1 Lap Running
15 J.R. Hildebrand 46 2 Laps Running
16 Mike Forest 46 2 Laps Running
17 Carl Skerlong 42 6 Laps Running
18 David Garza 41 7 Laps Running
19 Giacomo Ricci 37 48.591 Contact
20 Matt Lee 29 4 Laps Contact
21 Steve Ott 12 2 Laps Contact
22 John Edwards 12 2 Laps Contact
23 Ryan Lewis 6 9.314 Contact
24 James Hinchcliffe 1 24.189 Contact
25 Natacha Gachnang 25 Laps DNS