MOTORSPORT: Latif still leads the way
ALESSANDRO Latif remains in the lead of the Blancpain Sprint Series Pro-Am Trophy.
The 18-year-old student 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 last weekend – twice finishing second in the Pro-Am Trophy category.
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 Sundy’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,” reflected 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 Latif’s German teammate Basseng, running on slick, dry weather tyres, left Latif resuming behind a safety car, in ninth place overall and second in the Pro-Am Trophy standings.
The young driver 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 the Marlborough student found himself shuffled down to 10th place at the chequered flag after being hit from behind.
Latif was left frustrated by the incident that cost him three places: “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 Sunday’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, opting to pit for wet, treaded tyres – the Audi resumed in 13th with 24mins to run.
The rain stopped almost as quickly as it had started, leaving the German to struggle home on the drying track in the closing stages.
Latif admitted the team made the wrong call on the tyre change. “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 next Blancpain races are staged at the Slovakia Ring, near Bratislava, over 22-24 August.