15 June 2009
Q&A: Raphael Matos (Luczo Dragon Racing)
Raphael Matos has graduated strongly to the IndyCar Series after winning the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights title, and is currently the leader in the season-long chase for rookie of the year honours after debuting in the #2 Luczo Dragon car on the streets of St Petersburg.
Rafa, you've had a pretty strong rookie season so far. What has been the highlight of your season?
Well, I think the highlight was leading the race in Long Beach, qualifying third on the grid Long Beach. I think that's the highlight of the season, I believe.
What are your goals for the remaining eleven races of the season?
My goal is to win a race. I really believe we're capable of winning a race this year if we get everything right. I think performance-wise on road courses we have what it takes. It's going to take a lot of effort from me, a lot of effort from the team. There's a lot of work to be done. But I think I truly believe in the people we have on our team, and I think we can do it.
Talk about the transition going from the Firestone Indy Lights to the IndyCar Series this year. Do you think you could have made the jump last year without the experience of racing on ovals?
I think would be possible, but certainly much more difficult for me. [Racing in] Indy Lights, it's been a very smooth transition because I'm more acclimated with the ovals. I know how the dynamics of the car work on ovals, I know how to translate things to the engineers better today than two years ago, for sure. I think if you ask me if there was only road course in the schedule, I believe I was ready last year to make this step. But since we have many ovals, I think it was necessary [to have] a year in Indy Lights, for sure.
What about your team? I know you have a lot of good, experienced people on the team. Are they doing a good job of teaching you about the IndyCars, how to drive them in the IndyCar Series?
Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, the engineering group has tons of experience. The mechanics are top-class guys. They've been around for a long time with top teams and they have a lot of experience. And I feel, especially on oval racing, I'm getting a lot more information out of them. I feel in the road course that I'm able to naturally give them a lot more information about the car and about how to make the car fast.
Next week starts off a stretch of four in a row for the IndyCar Series. You have the short oval at Iowa, followed by Richmond where you are testing tomorrow, then the road course at Watkins Glen and the street course at Toronto. How do you mentally and physically prepare yourself for that stretch of racing?
You know, I went back home (to Miami) for one day. I may go back to Brazil for two days just to see my family and recharge the batteries. Working out physically, making sure I'm healthy and I'm the best shape so I can be mentally prepared. I think the approach will be the same as far as, you know, taking it race by race, practice by practice, qualify, taking the same approach every race, and not letting things upset our performance, be 100 per cent focused on the car and on the engineering group and on my health.
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