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M1 Racing's Donato Has Up-and-Down Initiation
Into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires

HOUSTON, June 30 - Dallas-based M1 Racing hoped for better results when the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires made its only visit this year to the Lone Star state, but it was an up-and-down weekend for the team and its rookie driver, Felipe Donato.

Donato, 19, of Guarani das Missões, Brazil, was making his first start ever in this Mazda Road to Indy series in the doubleheader on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn temporary street course around NRG Park Stadium. 

He placed tenth in a crazy race on Saturday that started under hot and humid but dry conditions but ended up being a rainy race, which was an admirable result under adverse conditions. Only nine of the event's 22 laps were run under green.

Donato was slated to start 13th in the second half of the doubleheader on Sunday afternoon, but he ended up not starting that event due to damage sustained in a crash during Sunday morning's 15-minute warm-up session.

Things started off well enough for the rookie, who drove the #9 sponsored by Top House Design and Inova Marketing, with additional support from the team's corporate partner, Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery.  He was ninth in the first practice session on Friday morning when he posted a time of 1:11.1855 on lap 19 of 22.

He hoped to get further experience with the car and the course in the second practice session Friday afternoon, but he lost most of that session due to a problem with the car's gearbox. He turned the 16th-fastest lap of the session

with a 1:11.9847 on the fourth lap of the six he completed in that 30-minute session, getting about 11 minutes of action.

He got 22 laps of experience during the 30-minute qualifying session on Saturday morning. His fastest lap was a 1:10.0877 on lap 20, which was good for the 14th starting spot in Saturday afternoon's race. The time was 1.4974 off the pole.

He got a fabulous start in Saturday's 40-minute race, passing Clark Toppe and Jeff Harrison on the first lap to move into 12th place. He advanced to 11th when a driver ahead of him, Neil Alberico, brought out the first full-course caution on lap two after contact in Turn 6. That yellow flag lasted through lap five.

Unfortunately another driver hit Donato and spun him out working lap seven, causing him to fall from 11th to 16th place. He moved up one spot on the next lap, however, when Toppe went off course in Turn 8, and he also got by Bobby Eberle before the second full-course caution flag waved on lap nine. He got one more stop when Harrison fell from 11th to 15th under that yellow, which put him in 13th position. 

Sixteen minutes remained in the race at the restart on lap 12, which saw Donato get two more positions to rebound to 11th place. He got one of them when the leader, Spencer Pigot, pitted for rain tires, and he got the other spot when Kyle Kaiser dropped from third to 14th.

Donato moved up to tenth on lap 13 when the yellow waved again to retrieve the stalled car of Ryan Booth, who had been ninth, in Turn 5. That took five laps. Donato was still in tenth place when the checkered waved with 22 laps complete, although an error on the scoring monitor listed him as ninth. He was tenth in the series' provisional race results, however.

All and all it was an excellent effort for Donato's first Pro Mazda race ever and also his first race ever in the rain. 

Hopes were high for an even better result in Sunday's race, in which Donato was slated to start 13th, ranked by his second-fastest lap set during Saturday's qualifying session of 1:10.1592.

Unfortunately it was not to be. He crashed in Turn 2 on his out-lap for the 15-minute warm-up session on Saturday morning.  With only two hours between the end of that session and the start of the race, the team worked valiantly to make repairs. The car got as far as the race's pace lap before its motor failed due to further damage suffered in the crash during the warm-up session. The car remained in the pits during the race and Donato was credited with 17th place.

Donato and the rest of the team will have a month to regroup before the next doubleheader, which is slated for Aug. 2-3 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Donato posted his best USF2000 finish at Mid-Ohio last year when he placed fifth.

Donato's Web site is at and he also has a Facebook page. He's @FelipeDonato51 on Twitter, FelipeDonato09 on Instagram and FelipeDonato on Tumblr.

For more information on M1 Racing, see its Web site at It also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  Drivers looking to join M1 Racing may contact team owner Paul Mata at for more information.

The series' Web site is at