MOTOR RACING: Marlborough's Latif makes a fast start
WILTSHIRE racer Alessandro Latif claimed the Pro-Am Trophy in both races when the Marlborough College student was placed 13th and 11th overall in the Blancpain Sprint Series at Brands Hatch on Sunday.
Latif, racing on home soil for the very first time in his short motor racing career, registered the top results despite feeling unwell and exhausted on Sunday evening.
“It was a tough but rewarding weekend,” said Latif. “Only 48 hours before race day there was a doubt that I’d be able to drive due a really bad viral infection.
“I was far from 100 per cent so I have to be happy with today’s results especially with every lap I complete, I gain valuable experience.”
Last weekend marked 18-year-old Latif’s first visit to Brands Hatch but that failed to stop the talented youngster from making his mark at the wheel of a Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra sportscar.
Latif and 2012 FIA GT1 world champion Mark Basseng, who began the series in France last month with two top-10 results, clocked the 12th fastest time for the opening 60-minute qualifying race.
Basseng was ninth before handing over to Latif with 32 minutes to run. Latif was running 11th after the completion of the compulsory pit-stop phase prior to a safety car period that bunched up the field.
Latif found himself shuffled back a place when the race resumed and took the chequered flag 13th – a mere 21 seconds behind the race winner.
“The Audi was very good but overtaking is pretty difficult with the similar performance of the entire field and I felt it was better not to take risks and jeopardise not finishing the race – for me the most important element of my debut Blancpain season is accumulating experience and mileage,” said Latif.
Latif began the second race from 13th on the grid but found himself boxed in at the start and completed the opening lap in 18th place, despite being hit a number of times.
But Britain’s rising GT prospect had impressively sliced his way up to 14th, on the back of a dice for ninth place, by the time he pitted after a solid, smooth stint for team-mate Basseng to take over and take the chequered flag placed 11th overall.
“I found myself sandwiched between a BMW and a Lamborghini at the start and had nowhere to go. There was contact but I managed to keep the car on the track but it had damaged some of the front aero on my Audi,” said Latif.
“I just got my head down and recovered the best I could and was pleased to hand the car over to Marc handily placed.”
Latif must now wait almost two months before the next rounds of the Blancpain Sprint Series, which is due to be staged in Zandvoort, Netherlands, between July 4-6.
“Overall I think the weekend was good given my illness and it’s a shame our overall results didn’t show the effort Marc, the team and I put in,” he said. “But it is pretty much a hold position at Brands and after qualifying, it was hard to make up places. Rest assured we’ll be fighting back at Zandvoort.”