M1 Racing's Costa Battles to Eighth at Barber
 April 29, 2014| 
  • Team News

LEEDS, Ala. — M1 Racing's Nicolas Costa withstood unrelenting pressure from Garett Grist for most of Sunday's Pro Mazda race at Barber Motorsports Park, providing fans with the best battle of Round 4 of the Mazda Road to Indy series, which is presented by Cooper Tires. After 20 laps of torrid competition Costa crossed the finish line in eighth place.

Costa's teammate, Jay Horak of Mesa, Ariz., the defending Expert class champion, finished second in that class for drivers over the age of 30 in both halves of the weekend doubleheader with his AutoEnginuity No. 37.

Costa, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was supposed to start ninth on Sunday with the Dallas-based team's #99, which is sponsored by IMM (Impermeabilizacões), Alufama, Oakley and Inova Marketing Esportivo. He actually started tenth after another driver passed him on the pace lap and didn't give the position back. Costa said there was some confusion when the green flag flew, but despite that he was still able to quickly move into seventh place during the opening laps.

For most of the race Costa remained in seventh place, trying to catch Neil Alberico while simultaneously holding off Grist. Grist tried everything he could think of to pass Costa, and finally wiggled by in one of the chicanes in the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course while working lap 17.  From that point on the ninth-place driver, Jose Gutierrez, tried to pass Costa too but Costa had a 0.4874-second advantage over Gutierrez at the checkered.

Horak had an easier time, as he remained second in class throughout Sunday's race and Saturday's as well. He was more than 20 seconds ahead of the third-place Expert class driver at the checkered on Sunday.

Costa qualified 11th for Saturday's race, but he was plagued by an engine problem in practice and qualifying. The team performed an engine change prior to Saturday's race, but unfortunately Costa had a mechanical issue stemming from the engine change before the race even started which forced him to pit, lose a lap and eventually finish 19th. Support series do not have morning warm-up sessions to identify problems before a race like the Verizon IndyCar Series does for most of its events.

"Today's race was fun," Costa said after Sunday's event.  "It's a shame that we lost seventh place with just two laps to go, but considering our problems it was not that bad of a result. We had two engine misfires during the race today, and on one of them Garett was able to get by me in one of the chicanes.

"I was trying hard," he said. "It isn't easy to pass on this track. I was just trying to be smart.

"After the problems we had in practice and qualifying we changed the engine before Saturday's race, but we had a problem before that race started so it was really our first real practice session," he added. "We just tried to come up with a good set-up for Sunday, and I think to finish in the top 10 was a big improvement, especially after the crazy start of that race."

Horak was pleased with his progress this weekend too.

"At first we didn't have a set-up that fit my driving style here, but we talked about it and continued to work on it and on Sunday my set-up was comfortable and fast," Horak said. "I felt I was very competitive on Sunday, and if we had another day here I could have gotten even more competitive."

The next event is another doubleheader on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 9-10. The series then moves a few miles west for a race on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis May 24.

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