Alessandro Latif belied both his rookie status and his lack of prior track knowledge to tally the finest result of his maiden Porsche Carrera Cup GB (PCCGB) campaign at Knockhill in Scotland last weekend, coming close to claiming his first podium finish in the UK’s fastest one-make series.
A pre-event test day enabled Latif to get an initial feel for the challenging and undulating Fife circuit – affectionately described as a rollercoaster ride – and after completing more than 100 laps, the rising young British star was just 0.15 seconds adrift of his quick and experienced GT Marques team-mate Dino Zamparelli, a multiple race-winner and title contender in the fiercely-disputed, ITV4-televised, BTCC-supporting PCCGB.
Latif maintained that form as the serious business got underway, offering a hint of what he was capable of by posting the fastest time of anyone through the final sector in FP2. In a cold and windy qualifying session, the London-born ace then produced a stellar performance to secure third spot on the starting grid for both races amongst the 20 high-calibre protagonists – his best to-date.
A slightly tardy getaway in race one saw Latif initially concede some ground, but he was still very much in the mix and attempting to fight back when he spun at the hairpin on lap six and dropped to 15th position. With sizeable gaps beginning to open up throughout the field, the 20-year-old Marlborough College graduate battled hard but could only recover to a frustrated 12th at the chequered flag.
The second outing, however, yielded a much happier outcome. Despite losing out at the start, Latif swiftly settled into fifth place and a series of competitive and impressively consistent lap times behind the wheel of his 460bhp, Fauna and Flora International-liveried Porsche 911 GT3 enabled the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé to maturely withstand pressure from Zamparelli and accomplished GT racer Lewis Plato behind.
Indeed, Latif even edged away from his pursuers in the closing stages as he homed in on the scrap over the bottom step on the rostrum, narrowing the deficit to less than a second-and-a-half as he duly delivered his highest finish of the season thus far to vault into the top ten in the championship standings.
“Finally, everything came together and we achieved our big breakthrough!” enthused the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series Pro-Am Champion. “It was a promising weekend right from the outset – the car felt good in testing and the speed came pretty naturally. Knockhill is a really cool circuit – short, bumpy and technical and a lot of fun to drive with all its elevation changes. The lap times were incredibly close which made for some great racing – and it certainly never allows you a moment to relax!
“The GT Marques boys gave me a great car in qualifying and after a disappointing first effort, I really went for it on my second one and pushed very hard. With so many corners at Knockhill in such quick succession, it’s not easy to set a perfect lap and if you make a mistake, it’s difficult to get the time back. You really have to get every element spot-on, but I just hooked it all up and it was extremely satisfying to end up third on the grid.
“Unfortunately, race one was then a bit of a disaster. I made a bad start and in trying to regain ground, I lost my head slightly and that spawned a snowball effect that culminated in the spin. Thankfully, I managed to turn things around in race two and despite dropping a couple of places at the start again, I had a clean run and was able to keep Dino comfortably at bay – I never really felt under any threat from behind. I actually pulled away from him towards the end and was catching the third-placed battle, so if I’d made a better start, I’m pretty convinced we would have finished on the podium.
“With our pace in qualifying and our performance in race two, there are a lot of positives to take away from Knockhill and plenty to build on. We can carry a lot of confidence forward into the final two meetings, and having shown our competitive fire at last, the goal has to be to keep the momentum going.”