Edmonton: Matos beats Perera in race 1

Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) got sweet revenge in Saturday’s first race of a Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda doubleheader at the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton and extended his lead in the championship standings with his fifth victory of the season.

As an Atlantic rookie a year ago, Matos started from the pole position in Edmonton and appeared to be on his way to his first victory in the series when disaster struck and he crashed with eight laps remaining in the race. A year later, Matos returned with five career Atlantic victories in his pocket and added another one on Saturday after claiming the lead from his Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) with 20 laps remaining and leading the rest of the way to beat Frenchman Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport/Continental Cartage Inc.) by 2.247 seconds.

It was Matos’ fifth victory of the season and he now leads Perera in the championship standings by 33 points, 259-226, with three races remaining on the schedule. Matos has now finished on the podium in four consecutive Atlantic races and in seven of nine races overall, and has finished inside the top-six positions in all nine starts this season.

Perera wound up second, breaking his Canadian victory streak after back-to-back wins at Mont-Tremblant and Toronto, but it was his fifth consecutive podium result dating to a third-place run in the second race of a doubleheader at Portland in June. The Condor Motorsports rookie is also the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in every race this season, and he extended his lead in the Rookie of the Year standings to 25 points over Canadian Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK).

Hinchcliffe started from the pole position and led the first 14 laps, but could not keep Matos and Perera at bay following the race’s second of two restarts following full-course caution periods and wound up third. It was Hinchcliffe’s fifth podium result of the season and his eighth top-eight result in nine starts this season. He remained third in the championship standings and now trails Matos by 55 points and Perera by 22.

Wickens came home fourth for his seventh top-five performance in nine races this season, and remained fourth in the overall championship standings and second in the Rookie of the Year standings. The Red Bull Team Forsythe pilot is three points behind Hinchcliffe.

Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) finished fifth to remain fifth in the championship standings, and the top five in championship standings finished in order in Saturday’s race. It was Ricci’s fourth consecutive top-six result dating to a fourth-place run in Round 6 at Cleveland and was the Italian rookie’s sixth top-eight result in nine starts this season.

Sixteen-year-old American rookie John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK) followed his career-best second-place result two weeks ago in Toronto with a solid, sixth-place performance in Race #1 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton. Edwards has now finished inside the top six in three of nine races this season and has scored championship points in all but one event.

Rookie Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) earned the best result of his Atlantic career with a seventh-place performance for Genoa Racing. The race result came on the heels of Saturday morning’s qualifying session for Race #2, where he qualified a career-best fifth. The 2006 Star Mazda champion’s previous best result was 12th in Round 2 at Long Beach.

Mexican racer David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT) picked up his fourth top-10 result in his last five races and matched his career-best Atlantic result with an eighth-place run. Garza also finished eighth in Round 6 at Cleveland. Englishman Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI Solutions/Insport) finished ninth for Walker Racing and Mathiasen Motorsports driver Justin Sofio (#26 RLM Investments) filled out the top 10.

• For the third time this season, Canadian rookie Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports) earned the bonus point for improving the most positions from start to finish. Herberts finished 11th after starting 21st, and also earned bonus points at Mont-Tremblant and the first race of the Portland doubleheader.

• Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) and Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT) saw their chances of scoring top-five results go out the window when the two drivers got together on Lap 11. The contact forced Skerlong into the barrier and out of the race, while Bomarito was assessed a drive-through penalty for what race officials determined to be avoidable contact. Bomarito wound up 14th and Skerlong was 20th.

• Dutch rookie Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Continental Cartage Inc./Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) sat out of Saturday’s race due to lingering effects of a wrist injury he sustained at Long Beach in April. He underwent surgery earlier this week.

Quotes from the top-three finishers in Race #1 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton doubleheader follow below:

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “It feels good to be back on the podium, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed to not be on top. We had a good start, managed to get the holeshot, and I was just kind of controlling the pace of the race. This track is pretty tough on tires, because it’s pretty quick, and I didn’t want to use them up too much in the beginning stint of the race, just in case we had a yellow and all of a sudden your lead is all gone. That’s exactly what happened. On restarts in Atlantic, you’re kind of a sitting duck, just because you’re not really allowed to defend your line. I managed to get a good jump on that first restart and I was actually pretty surprised to stay ahead of Rafa (Matos), because he’s known for being pretty good on restart, and again built up a little bit of a lead. It’s pretty tough to follow guys here, so when you’re out in clean air, you’re looking really good. I was just kind of hoping that we’d go green for the rest of the race, but unfortunately we got another yellow. That just led to Rafa getting a good jump on the restart and then Franck (Perera) the first lap after green. I’m a bit disappointed, but the car was really good. It was quick enough to win if we’d just stayed in that clean air. I’ve got to thank the crew, Sierra Sierra, again so much. I really enjoy driving here at Edmonton and I’m looking forward to going out again tomorrow."

FRANCK PERERA (#11 CJ Motorsport/Continental Cartage Inc.) of Condor Motorsports: “It’s nice to be on the podium again in Canada. I had great result here and for sure it’s a nice place. I had a really bad start and I fell into fifth place. I was behind (Alan) Sciuto and (Giacomo) Ricci, so it was tough. On the first lap, I had a problem already like in Qualifying 1, I think, with a fuel pump. On all the fast corners the engine stopped. After the first safety car, I didn’t have any more problems with that, but all the time I had an alarm on my dash. I was scared because I didn’t know if I’d have a problem at the end of the race. Anyway, the car was really competitive, Condor Motorsports did a great job this weekend again, and I was able to overtake Giacomo Ricci and Sciuto. I was lucky that there was another safety car, so I could catch the Sierra guys. I tried to overtake James (Hinchcliffe) and then I tried to catch Rafa (Matos). It was hard, because we were really similar on time. He was fast somewhere and I was fast in another place. Again, it’s a good result. I started from the second row and my start was bad. It’s good for CJ Motorsport, who’s here, and my sponsor, Everflux. I want to thank Condor, who is really doing a good job this year.

RAPHAEL MATOS (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “There’s a long way to go in the championship. After the race tomorrow, I think we’ll have an idea of who’s got a shot or not for the championship. Definitely, I felt that I had some unfinished business at this track, and we were able to pull this victory off. Sierra Sierra again did an amazing job. I’m very, very happy and it was a very emotional victory for me, especially because of last year. Since the qualifying this morning, I felt that I really had a car for the feature. It was just a matter of getting a clean start. I was fortunate enough to have a good start. I was not able to pass James, but I knew that I would have a shot on one of the restarts. I couldn’t really get the job done on the first restart. James got a jump on me. I was able to nail the second one. I had a real good restart and passed him. I think he struggled a little bit to stay behind me, as I did in the beginning of the race. It’s very difficult to be behind some other driver. Once I had clean air in front of me, I was able to pull a gap, maintain my gap, control the pace and bring the car to Victory Lane."

FP Driver Behind Status
1 Raphael Matos 0.000 Running
2 Franck Perera 2.246 Running
3 James Hinchcliffe 4.495 Running
4 Robert Wickens 5.215 Running
5 Giacomo Ricci 16.019 Running
6 John Edwards 17.383 Running
7 Adrian Carrio 18.103 Running
8 David Garza 18.558 Running
9 Ryan Lewis 22.709 Running
10 Justin Sofio 32.811 Running
11 Adrien Herberts 33.690 Running
12 Matt Lee 37.134 Running
13 Simona De Silvestro 38.541 Running
14 Jonathan Bomarito 43.122 Running
15 Brian Thienes 1:04.417 Running
16 Richard Heistand 1:22.323 Running
17 Frankie Muniz 1 Lap Running
18 Kevin Lacroix 1 Lap Running
19 Alan Sciuto 40.783 Mechanical
20 Carl Skerlong 3.898 Contact
21 J.R. Hildebrand 7.597 Contact
22 Mike Forest 3 Laps Contact
23 Tom Sutherland 4 Laps Contact
24 Junior Strous 0.000 DNS

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