Alessandro Latif has his sights set on a flying finish to his rookie campaign in the fiercely-disputed Porsche Carrera Cup GB in 2016, after continuing his upward curve with a spirited effort at Silverstone that yielded a brace of top eight finishes.
Having switched from single-seaters to sportscars this year, Latif has been increasingly acclimatising to his new challenge, and a breakthrough weekend at Knockhill last month saw him both qualify and finish inside the top five in the UK’s fastest one-make series – a leading draw on the support package to the supremely popular, ITV4 live-televised Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
The rising young British star travelled to Silverstone intent on reprising that impressive form, and in tricky qualifying conditions following earlier rain – with heat and grip very much at a premium – he proceeded to snare an excellent fourth spot on the grid for race one amongst the 22 high-calibre protagonists, less than a quarter-of-a-second shy of pole position behind the wheel of his potent, 460bhp Porsche 911 GT3 in an incredibly close and competitive session.
Indeed, the 20-year-old London-born ace was a scant three hundredths-of-a-second adrift of the front row and lined up ahead of his race-winning, title-contending GT Marques team-mate Dino Zamparelli, but a slow getaway when the starting lights went out cost him several places. Undeterred, Latif immediately set about fighting back as he stole sixth from Lewis Plato at Copse Corner before focussing his attentions on reducing the sizeable deficit to the four-way battle over the runner-up spoils.
Lapping consistently quicker than the leaders – and third-fastest outright – the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series Pro-Am Champion inexorably narrowed the gap in his striking, Fauna and Flora International-liveried car while simultaneously pulling away from his pursuers. By the time the chequered flag fell, he was barely half-a-second adrift of fourth position and just two seconds short of the podium.
From tenth on the grid in race two, Latif braved it out around the outside of the first corner to advance to ninth before nabbing another spot on lap six and going on to chase down and engage in a terrific three-way tussle with Tom Sharp and Daniel Lloyd.
Trying every which way to force his rivals into a mistake, ultimately there was no way past and the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé found himself having to settle for eighth, which nonetheless completed his finest points haul to-date and consolidated his top ten championship standing ahead of the Brands Hatch GP season finale at the beginning of October.
“After the progress we had made the previous time out, Silverstone marked another sizeable step forward and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend,” enthused Marlborough College graduate Latif, who is now studying Economics and Finance at Milan’s Università Bocconi. “I arrived carrying a lot of confidence off the back of Knockhill and we were able to maintain that positive momentum. The more experience I gain, the better I am driving and I think that is really beginning to shine through.
“I’d be lying if I said I was a massive fan of Silverstone, but as the ‘Home of British Motorsport’, it’s undeniable that there is a certain prestige to racing there and we started out well with a productive day of practice.
“Unfortunately, qualifying was then a scrappy affair; it had only just stopped raining, meaning the track was very greasy and difficult to read. We pulled it out of the bag to grab fourth on the grid for race one, but I didn’t manage to get a second quick lap time in which meant I was down in P10 for race two.
“I didn’t nail the standing start in race one, which cost us some ground, but it was satisfying to come back through the pack to finish sixth and we had properly reeled in the guys ahead by the end. My car felt great and we were routinely amongst the fastest in the field. It was just a shame about the start, because that almost certainly denied us a better result given the pace we had; that’s the key area I need to improve upon, as I’ve been used to rolling starts for the majority of my career and this is a learning curve.
“In race two, I picked up some damage early on from opening lap contact, which knocked my steering slightly out-of-line. That compromised our performance, but we were still really quick and I was the only driver doing very much in the way of overtaking. I tried everything I could to get past Lloyd at the end, but we just ran out of laps.
“Sixth and eighth nevertheless represented a very solid outcome and my strongest performance yet in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, and the aim is to keep the ball rolling at Brands Hatch. The GP layout is a real old-school challenge and my favourite circuit in the UK. I’ve also got some prior experience there, which is useful, and it’s effectively my home track being reasonably close to London so hopefully we can sign off the season on a real high.”