Rain stops play but can't conceal progress for Latif in New Orleans

  • British rookie adds another top ten finish to his 2015 Pro Mazda tally
  • London-born teenager shines through the spray on birthday weekend
  • World Speed Motorsports ace points to ‘genuine progress’ at NOLA

    Alessandro Latif celebrated his 19th birthday with a second top ten finish from three starts during his rookie campaign in the Pro Mazda Championship at NOLA Motorsports Park – and even though rain prematurely stopped play in Louisiana, it could not dampen his enthusiasm for a genuine step forward.
    Competing for World Speed Motorsports (WSM) in 2015 – having relocated stateside and switched disciplines from a successful sportscar racing career to open-wheel competition – Latif caught the eye with an excellent ninth-place finish on his debut in the St. Petersburg curtain-raiser.
    The rising young British star travelled to NOLA eager to maintain his positive momentum, and with some prior track time at the circuit from February’s Pro Mazda Winterfest. After working his way methodically and productively through the three test sessions and progressively reducing his deficit to the top of the timesheets, Latif improved to a superb seventh in free practice, barely two-thirds-of-a-second adrift of the outright benchmark.
    The London-born ace – a dual UK and Italian citizen – subsequently had high hopes for qualifying aboard his 260bhp single-seater, but a scrappy session left him a disappointed 13th on the starting grid.
    The heavens had opened with a vengeance by the time the first race came around, sending up rooster-tails of spray and rendering visibility practically non-existent. Undaunted by the elements, Latif maturely kept his head in the treacherous conditions and his reward was tenth position at the chequered flag, meaning that both of his finishes to-date have been inside the top ten.
    The torrential downpour caused the second outing to be postponed until later in the season, but the Kensington teenager’s earlier result nonetheless saw him advance from 15th to 14th in the drivers’ standings, a scant ten points shy of eighth. As he looks ahead to the next event at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama at the end of April, Latif does so with a justifiable sense of optimism.
    “It was a bit of a frustrating weekend,” reflected the former Marlborough College student, who has a deferred place at Loughborough University to study Mechanical Engineering. “That said, we got off to a solid start, and having some knowledge of the circuit meant we could hit the ground running right from the off, unlike at St. Pete where I’d needed to learn the layout before anything else, which had put us immediately on the back foot.
    “Some of the drivers in the championship are in their third or fourth year on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder and know the tracks like the back of their hand, but being so new to the schedule, NOLA represented more of a level playing field. It’s a demanding circuit; set-up is a challenge, and with two long straights, the emphasis is on running as little aero as you dare without compromising yourself through the corners – there’s a lot of focus on technique.
    “We were consistently inside the top ten and edging ever-closer to the front throughout practice, and after lapping seventh-quickest in FP1, I was convinced the top five was within reach, but then I overdrove and made mistakes in qualifying – I pushed to try to extract that little bit extra, and unfortunately it backfired.
    “In the race, it was so wet that we literally couldn’t see a thing – everybody was just trying to find a gap in the spray and stay there! We were aquaplaning around all over the place and merely driving rather than racing – or perhaps a better word would be surviving! We managed to keep the car on the track and bring it home in P10, which was all we could have asked for in the circumstances.
    “Overall, we made genuine progress at NOLA – we learnt a lot, gained further experience and were threatening the top five before the rain came, which bodes well. I’m now really keen to confirm and exploit that step forward at Barber. It’s a beautiful circuit that I hugely enjoy – definitely one of my favourites – with a great blend of ballsy high-speed blasts and trickier, more technical sections. I can’t wait! Hopefully, we can finish off the job that we started in New Orleans...”

    More information:
    Complete Event Results
    Event Photos
    Alessandro Latif Official website
    World Speed Motorsports Official website
    Pro Mazda Championship Official website