Latif Fired-Up to Finish on a High after Dogged Defense in Ohio
 August 5, 2015| 
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  • Young British open-wheel ace fends off the fastest at Mid-Ohio 
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Alessandro Latif is confident about his chances of concluding his rookie Pro Mazda Championship campaign on a high, after producing a dogged defense against the fastest driver in the field in the penultimate outing around Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Following his hefty 110mph coming-together with the wall a fortnight earlier at Iowa Speedway, the rising young British star arrived at Mid-Ohio with a brand new chassis, putting him immediately on the back foot in relation to his rivals in the hard-fought Mazda Road to Indy series.

Latif logged plenty of laps during testing and practice as he worked his way consistently closer to the leading pace behind the wheel of his 260bhp World Speed Motorsports (WSM) single-seater, although the legacy of his lack of prior mileage in the car told in qualifying as he could manage no better than 15th position.
In the opening encounter, the 19-year-old Londoner made up some early ground but after losing touch with the pack ahead, it was a lonely race, enlivened only by surviving a lurid 360-degree spin across the grass en route to 14th spot at the chequered flag.
From 15th on the grid again in race two, Latif assertively muscled his way up to 12th on lap one, before sizing up and opportunistically taking advantage of a multi-car scrap to pinch a couple more places and infiltrate the top ten.
The Kensington teenager would remain there for some time, unleashing superb racecraft as he focussed on fending off delayed pole-sitter Garett Grist, who was scything his way back through the order. Latif soaked up intense pressure and kept Grist at bay for a full six laps before his tyres cried ‘enough’ and he was forced to concede.
An impressive effort nonetheless, the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé’s grit and determination secured 11th place at the chequered flag to consolidate 13th position in the overall standings. With just the 2015 season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California next month left to run, Latif has his sights firmly set on signing off in style.
“Initially, it was a bit of a struggle,” reflected the former Marlborough College student and dual UK and Italian citizen, who has a deferred place at Loughborough University to study Mechanical Engineering. “The new chassis was an altogether different animal to tame, which made for a substantial learning curve and meant testing and practice were dedicated entirely to getting to grips with its handling characteristics, dialling it in and establishing a solid baseline set-up.
“Mid-Ohio is also a very technical circuit, and I didn’t have the confidence to lean on the car to begin with – which inevitably impacted on our qualifying performance. In race one, I fell adrift of the pack and with nothing to lose, we elected to treat it as a glorified test session.
“In the second race, we were a lot more competitive. I was aggressive at the start and we had some good pace, and I spent a long time battling with Grist. I was constantly defending and ultimately, that probably took a little too much life out of my tyres as it got to a stage where I simply couldn’t hold him off any longer. That said, he had been the quickest driver in qualifying, so I couldn’t feel too bad about it...
“Overall, it was an enjoyable weekend and we improved in every session. After a tough year, there were a lot of positives to take away and I just wish we could start over again from where we finished!
“We’ve got several weeks off now to recharge the batteries and analyse everything from the last few rounds, and we’ll go to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a much stronger mindset and an infinitely better knowledge and understanding of this car. It’s the team’s home track, too, so we’ll be giving it our absolute all to close out the season on a high.”

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