NEWS
Thursday, Nov 8 02:11pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Nick Cassidy fighting for second straight SUPER GT Series title

Nick Cassidy already holds the record for being the youngest Autobacs SUPER GT Series title winner, but he could go one better this weekend.

 

Twin Ring Motegi hosts the final round of the 2018 season, which is currently led by Cassidy and his teammate Ryo Hirakawa. They sit equal first on points with series debutant Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto.

 

If Cassidy and Hirakawa win, then the 24-year-old will become the youngest two-time back-to-back winner.

 

Only two weeks ago Yamamoto claimed the SUPER FORMULA title over Cassidy in one of the tightest fought championships in recent history. With an ex-Formula 1 world champion in his armory the SUPER GT title race is expected to be fierce.

 

The two leading teams each have one win to their name. Cassidy and Hirakawa have two third place finishes and a second while Button and Yamamoto have two second place finishes. Both have only finished outside the points once this season.

 

It’s a championship challenge that has set up a winner takes all showdown.

 

The battle between Lexus and Honda has been fascinating to watch, especially from the driver’s seat.

 

So far this season Button, Yamamoto and Honda have been the ones to beat in qualifying. However, their race pace hasn’t been as good as the Lexus outfits.

 

Honda dominated qualifying in the penultimate round at Autopolis with a top three lock out, but by the races’ end it was Lexus who clean swept the top four finishing positions.

 

“We don’t necessarily have the best race pace but it’s just that Honda can’t keep their qualifying pace up, so it comes back towards us,” Cassidy told velocitynews.co.nz.

 

“We were basically the same on weight at Autopolis. However, with their engine performance they were still quicker than us on the straights with the fuel flow restrictor anyway, so it’s scary their level of performance.”

 

Several factors will work for and against the no.1 Red Bull KeePer TOM’S Racing Lexus LC500.

 

The shorter race distance means whatever tyre wear advantage the team had over Honda has been minimized. Add to that Honda’s straight-line advantage and the Lexus mightn’t be able to keep up on the four long straights.

 

However, form is on the side of Cassidy and Hirakawa. In their last SUPER GT race together they finished second, a year earlier Cassidy was third with former teammate Daisuke Ito. In SUPER FORMULA Hirakawa finished second ahead of Cassidy earlier this year.

 

Cassidy does have a few concerns at the back of his mind, but that’s not going to stop his charge for victory.

 

“It’s been a track that has been pretty good to me lately, which is cool, but you can’t always count on those things.

 

“We’re both strong there and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be. In these races literally anything can happen and we’ve got to make sure we do everything right.

 

“The track is more about acceleration and braking than aerodynamic performance. That means our advantage in the race there might not be as great as well.

 

“Also, the race is 250km long so it’s a bit shorter than normal. That’s probably not ideal for us. We seem to be quite good on tyre degradation but with a shorter race the stints are shorter so it’s easier for a car that’s good over one lap.

 

“The longer races have definitely suited us this year, but I think Motegi will kind of be like Okayama in a way. That’s a similar style of race.

 

“We’ll still need to have a good qualifying, that’s not a track that you can come through very easily. So that’s quite a big concern right now but at the same time we’ve still had good performance this year so I’m not going to write us off.

 

“We’ve still got a good chance. We know that in qualifying we need to nail it.”

 

The final race of the season gets underway at 5:30pm NZST on Sunday. Stay tuned to velocitynews.co.nz for full live stream details.

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