Alessandro Latif tallied the third top ten finish of his rookie campaign in the fiercely-disputed 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup GB (PCCGB) last weekend as the UK’s fastest one-make championship travelled north to Croft. A full day’s testing in the build-up to the race meeting enabled the rising young British star to get to grips with the demanding North Yorkshire circuit.
Successful Rookie Campaign Continues
Latif put that experience to good use to lap eighth-quickest amongst the 24 high-calibre protagonists in free practice, as he edged consistently closer to the leading pace behind the wheel of his 460bhp, GT Marques-run, Fauna and Flora International-liveried Porsche 911 GT3.
The 20-year-old London-born ace was looking good to replicate that form in qualifying in the ITV4-televised BTCC support series, only for his two best laps to be taken away from him due to track limits infringements, demoting him to 12th on the grid for race one and 11th for race two.
Last of the late breakers
After advancing to 11th in the opener, Latif set about chasing down the two drivers ahead and his dogged determination and persistence were ultimately rewarded as he inexorably homed in on his prey and snatched tenth position with a last-of-the-late-brakers move on the final lap.
The Marlborough College graduate then mastered the rolling start in the second outing to immediately gain two spots to ninth, and he was firmly focussed on maintaining his forward momentum when contact with Charlie Eastwood on the pit straight turned the #19 car around and sent Latif skating onto the grass.
That obliged the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series Pro-Am Champion to return to the pits for the damage to be assessed, and when he rejoined the track, he was a lap down, transforming the remainder of the race into an impromptu test session. Notwithstanding that disappointment, Latif nonetheless found plenty of positives to take away from Croft as the championship now enters its mid-season break.
“Croft is a very cool circuit,” mused the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “The test day was very productive, because it was the first opportunity I’d had to drive it in the dry and you don’t get much track time at a race weekend before going into qualifying.
“The layout is a real challenge and great fun – it includes just about every type of corner, which calls for a lot of skill and makes it tricky to hook the whole lap up. The technical section from the Jim Clark Esses to Sunny In and Sunny Out in particular is phenomenal; you need to be really brave and let the car dance through there, and it always seems to be a fine line between staying on the track and losing it.
“We knew there was still time to find and work to do after the test, but we felt positive and ready to attack the weekend. Practice was a solid start, and with my team-mate Dino [Zamparelli] setting the benchmark, I tried to learn as much as I could from him.
Search for the right set up
“Unfortunately, qualifying was a scrappy session. We were struggling slightly with the brake balance and I couldn’t find a clear lap initially due to traffic, and then my quickest two efforts both got deleted due to exceeding track limits, for which I can only blame myself. That was really frustrating, because my best time was less than two tenths off the defending champion Dan Cammish, so it was certainly a respectable performance.
“That meant we started further down the grid than we should have been, which made our life harder in the races because it’s notoriously difficult to overtake in these cars. Our pace was decent in the first one and we were able to move forward, and I grabbed tenth position on the last lap by coming from a long way back at Tower which I think caught the other guy by surprise.
Pace and Potential
“On Sunday, we made up some early ground but after passing Eastwood for ninth, I thought I had cleared him only to suddenly find myself pointing in the wrong direction! It was probably 50/50 and a racing incident, but it left me with damage to the driveshaft and bodywork and a flat-spotted tyre on my Porsche 911 GT3 and knocked the steering alignment out, which was effectively game over.
“The pace and potential are clearly there for us to race inside the top five, but we have to figure out why we’re not maximising qualifying and rectify the issue so we can fight further towards the sharp end, because we’ve left ourselves playing catch-up on too many occasions. We need to eliminate the mistakes and establish some consistency, and once we do, I’m confident the results will follow.”