Nick Cassidy will get the chance to join an elite group of foreign drivers at the final round of this year’s Super GT Championship at Twin Rings Motegi in Japan this weekend in his Lexus LC500.
The series, Japan’s equivalent of V8 Supercars, with light weight coupes with over 600 horsepower has been won by 38 local drivers, while foreigners have tasted the championship champagne just 12 times.
With co-driver Ryo Hirakawa, Cassidy goes into the 250 kms race, with a six-points lead over Kazuya Oshima and Andrea Caldarelli in another Lexus LC500 and eight points ahead of the Nissan GTR of defending champions Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli.
“They need to win the race and we have to have a really bad day for them to retain the title,” said Cassidy.
The 23-year-old Aucklander is confident he can join the likes of former Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen and triple Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer and win Japan’s top motor racing series.
“We have had good performance all year. Ryo and I have combined well and the team’s mindset is to take the same approach as we have had all year,” said Cassidy.
“The only difference is there is more on the line this weekend.”
Race strategy will be crucial in the shortest race of the year. “Last year we had a double header at this track with a 250 kms race each day,” said Cassidy. “One race was won by a team that didn’t change tyres, while the other was won by a car that changed tyres when they changed drivers.”
Cassidy believes his Keeper TOM’S team can deal with either scenario. “The main thing is to keep an eye on the other Lexus.”
“Hopefully nothing we can’t control happens.”
This weekend’s race completes a busy year for Cassidy, as he made his debut in Japan’s top single seater series, Super Formula, where he finished tenth after scoring one podium finish and one pole position.
The more settled year has led to the better performances, as in 2016 he spent the year commuting between Japan, where he drove for Lexus in Super GT, and Europe, where he finished fourth in the European Formula 3 Championship.