MOTOR RACING: Latif retains Pro-Am advantage

This Is Wiltshire: Alessandro Latif Alessandro Latif

MARLBOROUGH College student Alessandro Latif remains in the lead of the Blancpain Sprint Series Pro-Am Trophy.

The 18-year-old, who recently attended the Marlborough College Leavers' Ball and German co-driver Marc Basseng brought their Audi R8 LMS ultra home in to 10th and 13th placings in the two rain-affected one hour races this weekend (July 5-6) – twice finishing second in the Pro-Am Trophy category.

But the Phoenix Racing duo could easily have been celebrating two top-six overall placings. Latif was needlessly bumped out of sixth place in race one on the penultimate lap and then a gamble to switch to wet weather tyres in today’s race backfired when the rain stopped.

“Luck was not in our favour in either race but we remain in the fight and the team performed really well once again,” said Latif.

Basseng had qualified ninth fastest on the 20-car grid for Saturday’s opening Qualifying Race around the Circuit Park Zandvoort, an 11-corner, 2.51-mile track located in the dunes right on the North Sea coastline.

The race began on a damp track with the German running on “slick”, dry weather tyres in 11th place in the early stages before the rain intensified 20mins into the race.

The safety car was deployed with Basseng placed 10th in the deteriorating conditions, Marc making his scheduled pit-stop – like the entire field – under the full course caution conditions with Latif resuming, still behind a safety car, in ninth place overall but second in the Pro-Am Trophy standings.

Latif moved up impressively to eighth and then into an excellent sixth place overall with a little over one-quarter distance remaining before the safety car was out once again to retrieve crashed cars.

The race resumed with just three minutes remaining, allowing a mere two racing laps, but Latif found himself shuffled down to 10th place at the chequered flag after being hit from behind.

Latif said: “Marc made a good start and looked after the car very well for my stint. I took the Audi up to sixth place and was one of the top-three fastest cars on the track.

“Everything was looking good for a top-six finish but when the Safety Car went in leaving just a two lap sprint to the flag, a BMW behind me just drove into the rear of my Audi, spinning me, and totally destroying the prospect of scoring our best result of the season.”

In today’s Championship Race, Latif lined up 10th on the grid but dropped two places after a frenetic start that saw two cars eliminated at the first corner and the deployment once again of the safety car to clear away debris.

Latif handed over the Audi to Basseng in 12th position overall, second in the Pro Am category, with 33mins remaining after a solid stint in which the young Briton impressively and continually improved lap times on the dry track.

Basseng was ninth after all of the mandatory pit-stops had been completed as heavy rain began to fall, Marc opting to pit for “wet”, treaded tyres – the Audi resuming 13th with 24mins to run.

However the rain stopped almost as quickly as it had started, leaving Marc to struggle home on “wet” tyres on a drying track in the closing stages.

“We thought the rain would last longer and that by changing to ‘wets’ would put us in contention for a top result but unfortunately we guessed wrong about Mother Nature, the track dried fast, and Marc was unable to stay with the cars on ‘slick’ tyres,” confirmed Latif.

“The Phoenix team clocked the fastest pit-stop time in race two and performed really well throughout the weekend.”

The next Blancpain races are staged at the Slovakia Ring, near Bratislava, over August 22-24.

MORE SPORTS NEWS & PICTURE IN THIS WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND WILTSHIRE TIMES

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