As the IZOD IndyCar Series gathers in St. Petersburg for the second race of the season this weekend, Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports driver Rafael Matos is hopeful his team can maintain the momentum it established in Sao Paulo on the streets of the Florida city. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights champ started his second season in the big cars by finishing fourth in Brazil two weeks ago, and reckons he can improve on that.
“I love this race, it's a beautiful place,” Matos said of St. Petersburg. “The track really fits my style and I won three out of four Indy Lights races there. It's a typical street course, but it's different than Brazil. You have different kinds of pavement and paint on the pavement, so mechanical grip will be an issue in some parts of the track. It has bumpy corners and fast corners. Brazil didn't have any fast corners.”
The Brazilian says the team's top-five finish in the season opener has re-energized Luczo Drago, which took on Indy 500 champ Gil de Ferran as a co-owner with Steve Luczo and Jay Penske during the off-season.
“We just finished fourth and the whole team is motivated,” Matos said. “We see we have the capability of getting on the podium, so we are all focused on improving our performance. Our confidence gets higher and higher with every race. The team really did a great job making changes and putting things together in Brazil. We will have the same approach in St. Pete. We learn different things at every race. I was able to run with all the fast cars in Brazil, so now we can study that data and find ways to improve the car so I can push it more and hopefully run in the top five consistently.
Matos said his new co-owner has already become a confidante. “I have been talking a lot to Gil on the technical side and he's been providing me with a lot of advice that will help my performance, like dealing with pressure. We all have pressure, but you have to find a way to separate from it when you're on the track so that your concentration level is where it needs to be. Gil has been very helpful in providing good advice.”