Talented British teenager Latif takes top ten finish in Florida

18-year-old consistently reduces gap to front-runners in Pro Mazda ChampionshipConfident of continued progress over coming rounds

Alessandro Latif demonstrated consistent progress over the course of the 2015 Pro Mazda Championship season curtain-raiser at St. Petersburg in Florida – and his reward was a richly-deserved top ten finish.Having established a formidable reputation as a supremely accomplished sportscar protagonist, Latif has crossed over into single-seaters this year and steered his burgeoning career stateside by joining World Speed Motorsports (WSM) to contest the fiercely-disputed Pro Mazda Championship – the second rung on the proven and well-trodden Mazda Road to Indy ladder.Off the back of a promising debut in last month’s Winterfest warm-up, the rising young British star headed to St. Petersburg targeting further improvement. Despite having never so much as set eyes upon the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit before, he duly halved his deficit to the top of the timesheets during practice and qualified in 14th position for both races behind the wheel of his 260bhp single-seater.From there, Latif spent much of the opening encounter as part of a long queue fighting over fourth place, producing competitive lap times and keeping out of trouble to advance to an excellent ninth at the chequered flag.The 18-year-old Londoner – a dual UK and Italian citizen – was looking for more of the same in the second outing the following day, but after carefully avoiding an accident ahead on the first lap, he was removed from contention himself when a rival careered into the back of him.Notwithstanding that disappointment, Latif nonetheless reflected that St. Petersburg had represented another vital phase of his learning curve. What's more, with the next two rounds taking place at circuits of which he already has some experience from the Winterfest – NOLA Motorsports Park on 11/12 April and Barber Motorsports Park a fortnight later – he is optimistic of maintaining his upward momentum.“I love street circuits!” enthused the Kensington teenager and former Marlborough College student, who holds a deferred place at Loughborough University to study Mechanical Engineering. “I enjoy the challenge of driving so close to the walls with no margin for error, and St. Pete is an awesome track – really bumpy and a lot of fun!“We definitely made another step forward this weekend. I’m still focussing predominantly on the technique of driving a single-seater and getting into the groove of open-wheel competition. The racing itself is almost secondary at this early stage; it’s all about self-improvement, and the results will naturally follow as a by-product of that progress.“We made up some solid ground in race one; that was encouraging, especially given that we are only really at the start of our journey – it was a big confidence boost and proves that when we do get on top of everything, we will be right up there. It was a shame about race two, because in the light of what transpired, it could have been a big points-scoring opportunity but these things happen. It’s just one of the perils of racing on a tight-and-twisty street circuit.“Having some prior knowledge of the next couple of tracks will unquestionably be an advantage and should help speed up the learning process a little; it means I can concentrate fully on my performance right from the outset, without needing to worry about which way to turn coming out of the pit-lane! It immediately gives us a better starting-point – and that will hopefully allow us to fight even further up the field.”

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