M1 Racing's Acosta Finishes Fourth in Pro Mazda Season Opener
DALLAS, March 5 — Juan Camilo Acosta of M1 Racing got the 2013 season of the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires off to an exciting and very successful start on Friday when he finished fourth in the first half of a season-opening doubleheader at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
Driving the Dallas, Texas-based team’s immaculate white and yellow No. 11 sponsored by Studio F and Ela, the 22-year-old rookie from Cali, Colombia took the checkered flag just a tick after the podium finishers — Diego Ferreira, Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham — while holding off a hard-charging Petri Suvanto in the 12-lap event.
Acosta’s excellent finish followed a superb qualifying effort earlier Friday afternoon that saw him earn the fifth-place starting position with a time of 2:03.666 and an average speed of 98.976 miles per hour for the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course that is used for the United States Grand Prix Formula 1 race. That was only 0.545 of a second off the pole.
The start of Friday’s race was a wild affair in which three drivers went off course. Luckily Acosta wasn’t one of them. The driver who started fourth wasn’t as lucky, however, which vaulted Acosta into third position when the first lap was scored.
He stayed in third place until Spencer Pigot passed him working lap three. Fourth through seventh place were running nearly identical speeds at that point, and by lap five he was engaged in the fiercest battle on the track. He set his fastest lap of the race on that lap with a 2:04.408 (98.386 mph) while holding off the driver who was running fifth, Suvanto. That would eventually give Acosta the fifth starting spot for Saturday’s race, but he couldn’t think about that at the time because he was too busy holding off Suvanto, who hounded him the rest of the way.
Suvanto tried everything he could think of but Acosta was having none of it, and Acosta successfully held the Finnish driver off for seven more laps to finish fourth in his first race ever representing M1 Racing.
Unfortunately Acosta was involved in a racing accident at the start of Saturday’s race that dropped him from fifth to 14th place. His car had right-front suspension damage and tire marks over it from the contact, but Acosta persevered and nursed the car home in that position 12 laps later. Despite the wounded car he turned the 30-minute race into a learning experience, as he worked with what he had and continued to improve his lap times. His fastest lap of that race was lap 11 of 12.
The next event is another doubleheader March 23-24 on the street course in St. Petersburg, Fla. It is one of five Pro Mazda events that support an IZOD IndyCar Series headliner. The Pro Mazda series is an official step in the Mazda Road to Indy feeder system for future IndyCar stars.
“The first lap of the first race was perfect,” Acosta said. “We got a good start and we were third, but then Pigot passed me. I tried my hardest to maintain my position and we were glad to finish in the top five. We were really happy about that result, and we’re determined to keep working harder and harder.
“I got an excellent start in the second race too,” he said. “We were fighting for the second and third positions, but another driver crashed me. It was very disappointing because we had an excellent car and I thought we could have easily been on the podium, but we’ll just keep working and hope to do better. Luckily the car wasn’t damaged too badly and we hope to be on track testing this Thursday.”
“Juan did a great job all weekend,” said Paul Mata, the team owner. “He is getting more comfortable in the car all the time. What he did on Friday was what we all thought he could do. He got a suggestion from Joel Miller, the series’ driver coach, on Friday before qualifying that helped, and he’ll be even better as his confidence grows.
“St. Pete will be his first street-course races ever. We’ll all just try to do our best. Juan’s karting experience should help there.”
“Juan has a real good sense of the direction he’d like to try with the set-up,” noted Remi Lanteigne, team manager/engineer. “That’s an extremely positive trait, especially with the new tires he’s working with and with the new tracks he’s facing this year. We are doing our best to help him develop the skills he’ll need not only this year but for the future. He’s really stepped up his game and he’s focused on developing his skills and his race craft.
“I’m very satisfied with his speed,” Lanteigne added. “Our team is continuing its extensive testing schedule and we’re very encouraged with how things are going. It’s looking good for a strong year; our program is well on its way.
“Our team’s personnel have a great deal of experience in training rookies, and we still have one seat available,” he noted. “We’ve been talking to several interested parties, but nothing is set at the moment.”
A great deal of information on the team can be found on its website at M1Racing.co. Fans are encouraged to interact with the team via Facebook at M1 Racing — Pro Mazda. It is also on Twitter @M1ProMazda. The series’ website is at promazdachampionship.com.