Having plied his trade in single-seaters throughout 2015 in North America’s Pro Mazda Championship, Latif has returned to home turf this year and is contesting the fiercely-disputed, Porsche Carrera Cup GB – the UK’s fastest one-make series – for the first time with former title-winning outfit GT Marques.
The rising young British star featured up towards the sharp end throughout practice around Brands’ short Indy layout, posting the sixth-quickest effort amongst the 23 high-calibre protagonists in the opening session. That put him ahead of well-regarded and more experienced team-mate Dino Zamparelli and a scant four tenths-of-a-second adrift of the outright benchmark.
With more than 80 laps under his belt behind the wheel of his potent, 460bhp 911 GT3, Latif proceeded to qualify ninth for race one and sixth for race two, punching in a succession of laudably consistent times and figuring inside the top five until a flurry of late improvements shuffled him slightly down the order.
Overnight rain rendered the track surface slippery in the curtain-raiser, but undeterred, the London-born teenager gained ground at the rolling start and was continuing to make solid progress when a tag from a rival on lap three pitched the striking Fauna & Flora International-liveried Porsche into a spin. After rejoining the fray, Latif’s race unfortunately ended only one corner later as a stricken car broadside across the circuit left him with nowhere to go.
His GT Marques mechanics performed miracles to rectify the damage before the second outing later the same day, when the 19-year-old Marlborough College graduate faced his first standing start in almost four years. A stall when the lights went out precipitated a charge back through the pack, and by dint of some incisive overtaking manoeuvres and an encouraging turn-of-speed, Latif recovered seven positions to flash past the chequered flag just outside of the top ten.
“The level of opposition in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB this year is extremely strong – including the reigning champion and a number of drivers who have been competing in the series for several years – but our pace was promising from the outset,” reflected the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series Pro-Am Champion. “Indeed, in FP1, we actually topped the timesheets for a fair part of the session.
“Qualifying was incredibly close, and I lost a tenth-of-a-second because I didn’t manage to string my two best sectors together, denying us a spot inside the top five. We didn’t quite extract the maximum out of the tyres, which was what made the difference.
“The circuit was still very damp in race one, but I love those conditions and I was going well when I went for a move on Tom Oliphant on the inside of Druids and he turned in on me, squeezing me onto the grass. The lack of grip spun me round and somebody else struck me from behind.
“I then got to Graham Hill Bend, where there was a car stranded in the middle of the track right in front of me and I couldn’t slow down in time. The front end bore the brunt of the damage, but the GT Marques boys did an awesome job and worked amazingly hard to repair it and get me out again for race two.
“I had done very little in the way of practice starts during testing, and barely any standing starts in my career full stop so I was nervous about stalling and of course, the inevitable happened! That dropped me all the way down to the foot of the top 20, but I battled back to finish 12th on a circuit where it’s notoriously difficult to overtake.
“There were a few costly errors over the weekend caused by a lack of experience in the car, but I learnt a lot and most importantly, we demonstrated good pace and racecraft and showed a massive amount of potential and now I’m really excited for the next round at Silverstone. It’s a real drivers’ track, and I can’t wait to take on the full Grand Prix Circuit in the Porsche 911 GT3!”
Source. Russell Atkins Media