Born: Aug. 28, 1981
Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Current Residence: Miami, FL, USA
2003 Skip Barber Formula Dodge
2005 Star Mazda Series
2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series
2008 Firestone Indy Lights Series
2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona (GT Class)
2009 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year
2009 Indianapolis 500 Fastest Rookie
With four series titles and three Rookie of the Year awards in seven years, Raphael Matos' name is becoming synonymous with the word Champion. The 28-year old Brazilian has won titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008, which helped pave the way for a full time IndyCar Series ride in 2009, fulfilling a dream that began in 1992.
After claiming the Firestone Indy Lights Series title as a rookie in 2008, Matos was snatched up by de Ferran Dragon Racing to pilot the #2 car. All he did was register eight top 10 finishes, third most ever by a rookie driver, to win the Apex IndyCar Rookie of the Year award. He finished 13th overall in the standings, an impressive feat for a first year driver with a first year team.
While 2009 was his first season in the IndyCar Series, Matos served as a test driver for Andretti Green Racing's IndyCar Series program in 2008. The experience helped make the transition to full time IndyCar driver smooth. He finished the season with four top 10s in the final five races and his eight top 10 finishes overall were split evenly between ovals (4) and road/street courses (4). The 102 points he recorded over the final five races were the eighth most in the series.
Matos made his IndyCar debut after a successful run through the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, during which he claimed four series titles in six years, including the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights and 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series crowns. He claimed the Star Mazda Championship in 2005 and won the Formula Dodge National Championship in 2003.
A native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Matos began racing karts and winning championships in 1996, tying for the city championship in his first year. He came to the United States in 2002 to compete in the Formula Dodge and Skip Barber Race Series. He was Skip Barber Rookie of the Year and followed that by winning the Formula Dodge National Championship a year later.
In 2004, Matos moved up to the Star Mazda Series and won the title in his second season. He made the jump to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Series in 2006 and finished fourth in the point standings for the Sierra Sierra team. That same season, he also competed in four Indy Pro Series races for Jim Guthrie Racing and swept the two races held in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In 2007, he claimed the Atlantic Series championship after scoring six wins in 12 starts. The Atlantic title secured a $2 million "scholarship" for a ride in Champ Car in 2008, but Matos passed, choosing instead to sign with Andretti Green Racing to drive in the Indy Racing League's Firestone Indy Lights Series.
During the fall of 2007, he was named a driver for A1 Team Brazil in the A1 Grand Prix series and made his debut at the series' race in Beijing during the 2006-2007 season. He raced a Lola B07/40-Mazda in the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring and the 2007 Petit Le Mans.
With Andretti Green Racing, Matos kept his championship momentum and made it back-to-back series titles by securing the Indy Lights crown with three wins, eight top 5s and 13 top 10s in 2008. He led the league in poles (5), top 10 finishes (13), laps led (190) and races led (5).
Prior to the 2008 Indy Lights season, he drove a Mazda RX-8 for the SpeedSource team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, taking first in the GT class and a 9th place overall finish, sharing the car with Nick Ham, David Haskell and Sylvain Tremblay. After the season, he drove for Michael Shank Racing on the winning team in the DP class (with Ian James and John Pew) at the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park.
Matos Keeps Racing With An Eye To 2012
Deerfield Beach, FL - Raphael Matos never loses focus on his ultimate goal; competing in the top level of open wheel racing in North America. The talented driver from Belo Horizonte, Brazil has called Florida home for the past few years as he continues to build an impressive resume running in a variety of top-level cars. During the 2011 Grand American Sports Car Series stop at Laguna Seca, Matos did double duty running in the Continental Tire Series in the GS class with Turner Motorsports in a BMW M3 and then competed in the Grand Am Series in the GT class again with Turner Motorsports in the potent BMW M3. A great weekend saw Matos cross the line in his GT class car in eighth place. Most recently Matos joined Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio in the #7 Starworks Ford Riley Daytona Prototype at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The trio ran well and was able to run at the front of the Rolex Series field as they just missed the podium finishing in fourth.
"We never felt we had a car to compete for the win so Ryan, Enzo and I just worked really hard to get close to the leaders," comments Matos from Daytona Speedway in Florida. "We got the best out of the car and that was important for myself and the team. The crew was great and I think I was helpful in giving some good feedback that can help everyone."
Following the northeastern US run in New Jersey, Matos headed straight to Daytona Beach, Florida and the famous Daytona International Speedway for a special test program in the Ferrari sports car that will debut in 2012. Matos was hand picked to run the new Ferrari 458 GT that was built in Italy by Ferrari and Michelotto as the crew was looking to put on the final touches to the program. Matos and Guy Cosmo joined Ferrari factory driver Jaime Melo in turning 174 trouble-free laps, running unofficial times of within a half-second of the GT pole position from the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona in 2010.
"It was a special moment for me. With Ferrari coming back to GT in Grand Am racing it was really great to be picked by the team to participate in this very critical test," smiles Matos. "The car itself had great balance and drove amazing. We had zero problems during the test."
Keeping in the seat and running in different cars is important for Matos as he looks to put the finishing touches on his 2012 Indy Car program. The 2009 Indy Car Series Rookie of the Year has been in negotiations as he looks to support several unique programs slated for 2012. One group that is working hard to keep the dream of an Indy Car ride and Indianapolis 500 appearance alive is Brasilinvest as they look to support the next top level Brazilian driver. The Brasilinvest Group was founded in 1975 by Brazilian business leader Mario Garnero. It is Brazil's first private development agency.
With four series titles and three Rookie of the Year awards in seven years, Raphael Matos' name is becoming synonymous with the word champion. The 28-year old Brazilian has won titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008, which helped pave the way for a full time Indy Car Series ride in 2009, fulfilling a dream that began in 1992. Raphael Matos is the 2003 Skip Barber Formula Dodge Champion, 2005 Star Mazda Series Champion, 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Series Champion, 2008 Firestone Indy Lights Series Champion, 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona GT class winner, the 2009 Indy Car Series Rookie of the Year and the 2009 Indianapolis 500 Fastest Rookie. Rafa, as he is known to friends and fans, calls Miami, Florida home and works with young racers in between racecar commitments. Matos is one of the leading talents from his home country of Brazil and is focused on using motorsports to make a difference in the lives of people in communities throughout North America.
For more information about this release and sponsorship opportunities contact Raphael Matos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This news release was prepared by Autosports Media Group.
By Andy Stice - Logistics/AFS Racing - May 23, 2011
In its fifth ever Indy Car event, AFS Racing narrowly missed the field for this year's centennial Indy 500 race. The 2011 Indy 500 has been one of the most closely contested events as teams vie for a spot in this land mark, historic event. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most challenging fields. Raphael Matos, driver of the AFS Racing Dallara Honda, missed a spot on the starting grid by a mere .5 of a mile per hour over the ten mile qualifying run.
Neil Micklewright, VP of Operations: "Obviously, we are extremely disappointed to have fallen short of the performance we needed. There are never any excuses for failure, but there are always reasons. We are a new team and fully understood that the challenge of this year's Indy 500 would be massive. Creating the team in February, meant a late start for both the crew and Raphael, but we all accepted the challenge. We were hoping and praying that the weather would be good for the entire week of practice at Indy, as we had never run there as a team and needed every possible moment of track time to try and refine the car to its ultimate potential. Raphael and the entire crew worked tirelessly and extremely professionally to try and gain as much knowledge and track time as possible, but I really think the lack of running on Tuesday and Wednesday, due to rain, hurt our entire effort. Every member of the team, including Rapha and the engineers, did a fantastic job every single day. Rapha drove his heart out and the team as a whole posted among the most total laps run in practice. That said though, we just couldn't make up for the lack of time to develop the car. Unlike most of our competitors, we don't have several years of data and experimentation on the car to bring out the most from it. Like I said, there are no excuses, we didn't get in, but I don't feel our lack of success is due to a lack of effort. Although there can't be any upsides to missing a qualification spot, we are among some pretty distinguished company as we watch from the sidelines."
Gary Peterson, Owner: "As the owner of AFS Racing, I feel so sorry for the team. Especially, Rapha Matos who I feel I let down. I am so proud of this crew who worked tirelessly for days leading up to qualifying. My original intent was to run the road and street courses only this season to prepare us for the 2012 season, but the draw of the centennial Indy 500 was too much for me to resist. We will regroup and are beginning today to prepare for the balance of the season."
By Andy Stice - Logistics/AFS Racing - May 16, 2011
AFS Racing would like to announce that Raphael Matos will drive for the team in this year's centennial Indianapolis 500 event. While the team has enjoyed championship victories in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, this year marks their first season as an official IndyCar team. The team has been able to participate in every race thus far; however, they have yet to secure the necessary sponsorship for the entire season. They have focused on working with Brazilian and US companies to form partnerships and have had some success. Nevertheless, the team will need additional funding to continue this season and move toward the 2012 season.
Gary Peterson, team owner, stated, "While my intention was to start an IndyCar team in 2012 with the new cars, I'm excited to be participating in this year's 100th race of the Indianapolis 500. This event is the culmination of a lot of hard work. While it's still critical that we secure additional funding to continue the season, it's a huge accomplishment that we've been able to participate in every event this year. The team has worked extremely hard to prepare for this event and Rapha has done the work necessary to condition himself for the race. I am thankful that my friends at Global Traders have put in so much personal time helping the team. It will be a tough bid to get into the race this year with so many entrants; hopefully, our preparation will make the difference and we'll see #17 in the lineup. Weather permitting, we'll be on the track for first practice this Saturday and every other day we're permitted to, so we can get that speed needed to qualify."
The team will look to secure one of the 33 available grid slots in a year where entrant participation is high. Neil Micklewright, the team's VP of Operations, had this to add, "The Indy 500 is always a massive challenge, but this, the Centennial year, will be even more challenging. Everyone on the AFS team, including all the folks at our head office in California have been making a supreme effort to get everything in place. Gary Peterson, our team owner, has allowed us to obtain every conceivable speed tweak or modification. I want to thank him for that, as it just goes to show that he is as committed as are all the guys on the crew. No one knows yet how all this will play out, but you can rest assured that we'll be giving this year's Indy 500 everything we've got. No holds barred."
"Going to my third Indy 500, I'm feeling a lot more confident and experienced", said driver Raphael Matos. "Hopefully, I will make fewer mistakes than in my previous years. With Indy, you almost go through phases during the race. You have to be as close as you can to the objective during that period and when it's time to push hard, a driver can make a difference. The car has to be handling very well, because it's a very demanding track due to the layout and the speeds we reach out there. There's a lot more turbulence than on other tracks due to the higher speeds we're reaching. This is the big race for every team out there and everybody plays their biggest cards on the track. The whole AFS team has worked tirelessly preparing the car and this event is very important for every single member of AFS Racing. For me as a driver there's no comparison to any other race; the track is unbelievably fast and smooth and the level of concentration needed makes a big difference. You have to be aware of every single element; the car, the track conditions, other drivers, etc. so you can make good decisions and ultimately get everything out of the car for pole day. I'm looking forward to it! I can't wait to get in the car and go flat out around that track!"
By Andy Stice - Logistics/AFS Racing - May 3, 2011
Driver of the #17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc./Nova Schin AFS Racing Team car, Raphael 'Rafa' Matos stated: "It was great to be back in Brazil and race in front of my fans, friends and family. Unfortunately, the way things played out, the weather didn't cooperate with us. We fought early on in the weekend trying to find straight line speed with the car and we did find it for the race, but we just couldn't fight because things got complicated in the race with so many incidents prior to the final crash that took us out. In one of the restarts, I hit the brakes and just got hit from behind, which sent me into Tony Kanaan's car damaging my left side suspension. It quite disappointing, but that's racing. We will regroup ourselves for Indy and go for a good result at the biggest race of the planet.''
After a disappointing weekend, Neil Micklewright, VP of Operations for the AFS Team had this to add: "We fought hard all weekend and the crew all did a great job. We were competitive right from the start but somewhere prior to qualifying we just lost straight line speed and that cost us a lot. By race day things were back on track and we felt fairly confident of a strong finish. Then it rained and boy, did it rain! The race was postponed until Monday morning and it looked as though things would improve until we were mixed up in two separate incidents, the second one eliminating us altogether."
"Rafa did a great job this weekend and I feel that we made significant progress with understanding what he needs as well as finding the ways to adjust the car more to his liking." said team engineer, Tom Brown. "We were all disappointed with qualifying, but we were trying to find every bit of performance that we could and went a little backwards instead. If not for the rain, I think we would have been in much better shape for the race."
After a turbulent event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the team has finally arrived back in Indianapolis, Indiana to gear up for the Indy 500.
"It was unfortunate that the weather didn't cooperate, but I'm proud of the team for dealing with the straight line speed issue. Although, things didn't go as well as any of us would have liked, I think team cooperation was good, the car ran well, and Rafa dealt with the poor conditions as well as could be expected. It was just a matter of a series of bad circumstances on the track. Now it's important that we put all of our attention on the big race. The 100th year of the Indy 500 is exactly where I want to be and I know that every person involved with this team feels exactly the same way."
SAO PAULO, Brazil - Yes, Raphael Matos understands, you can go home. The native Belo Horizonte (the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, about 450 miles from the Anhembi circuit) is looking forward to standing on the podium May 1 with the green and yellow Brazilian flag draped over his shoulder.
In another context, the third-year IZOD IndyCar Series driver is comfortable with his old/new home at AFS Racing. Matos won the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights championship in an AFS Racing car, and reunited with owner Gary Peterson just before the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., to drive the No. 17 entry in the team's inaugural standalone race.
"Gary and (his wife) Tammy are wonderful people and as I've told him several times he's saved my career two times," said Matos, who competed with two iterations of Jay Penske/Steve Luczo/Gil de Ferran racing operations the previous two seasons. "It's certainly a place that I can have a long-term career.
"The chemistry of the team is great. I feel a lot of support from the engineers, mechanics and (GM) Neil Micklewright."
Matos delivered a seventh place on the St. Petersburg street course, and is 12th in the championship standings heading into the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle. AFS Racing, which had competed in Firestone Indy Lights since Peterson was a driver, ran two IZOD IndyCar Series races in 2010 through an association with Andretti Autosport.
"Finishing seventh in the first race when we did the shakedown of the car on Friday is not bad," said Matos, the 2009 IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year. "Having the program come late to the season, without going to the Open Test (10 days before the opening event) was tough. But it's that support from everyone, the chemistry that got us through. I know that I can give insight to the engineers and help them with the development of the car for this track."
Matos, whose Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car carries associate sponsorship from Nova Schin (a popular Brazilian pilsner), was out of a ride in December. Now he's the foundation of a team that is seeking to expand its imprint in the highly competitive series.
"It only gives me confidence," said Matos, who recorded one of his four top-10 finishes in 2010 on the Sao Paulo circuit last year with a fourth (started 12th). "I put a lot of pressure on myself as a driver, and having support from Gary and the sponsors is what I'm looking at.
"(Peterson is) committed to this program, very passionate about this sport and loves his team. I expect big things out of this team. Obviously, we need to get the right partners and we need track time."
By Andy Stice - Logistics/AFS Racing - April 11, 2011
The Gary Peterson owned, Raphael Matos driven #17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., Nova Schin sponsored AFS Racing Indy Car was unable to finish this weekend's race after multiple collisions during the race. The third and final collision, when the AFS entry was hit from behind, damaged the car beyond repair and further competition in the event.
Starting from the 14th position, the AFS Racing entry was hit from behind on the opening lap, relegating Rafa Matos to dead last. A sterling driving performance and good pit strategy saw the #17 climb to 12th before being forced off the road in one of the many restarts, once again relegating the car to 17th. Once again the chase was on and Rafa was making excellent progress, until being taken out of competition by the final collision.
Raphael Matos: "We worked very hard today to keep the car competitive and to move up the field. We were on a good strategy and things were beginning to come our way, but every time I made progress, someone took me out of the race. The final collision damaged the front suspension too badly to continue. I'm looking forward to Long Beach and Brazil where we'll try to repeat our St. Pete performance."
Gary Peterson: "After all the hard work by Rafa and my crew, we were disappointed to be unable to finish the race. The Izod Indy Car series is incredibly competitive and I guess these things will happen in racing. We're repairing the car and plan on being ready to go for the first practice session in Long Beach."
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