Nick Cassidy will be hoping to kick his Super FORMULA title defence into gear this weekend with the season opening round from Twin Ring Motegi, albeit with a unique race format targeted at limiting the number of team personnel at the circuit.
Unlike previous years, this weekend’s race at the Japanese circuit will be held over just 35 laps instead of the usual 51. Drivers will also have to helm an unwonted race strategy with refuelling and tyre changing a thing of the past to restrict the number of team crew needed at the event.
The alteration of the rules has led to some criticism with former Super GT 300 champion Nirei Fukuzumi suggesting it could result in F3-like races where fans and drivers are able to easily predict the end result after only a handful of laps.
Famous for its annual round on the MotoGP calendar, Motegi is notoriously difficult to overtake on and with zero pitstops to play with it adds an extra layer of emphasis on qualifying and being able to nurse your rubber for the entire race.
Cassidy was originally absent from Toyota’s driver lineup earlier in the year but confirmed in April he will return to compete alongside 2019 teammate Kazuki Nakajima at the same TOMs outfit he clinched the championship with.
Cassidy finished third in last year’s race at the circuit with victory claimed by the Kiwi’s current Super GT co-driver Ryo Hirakawa who also returns to the Super FORMULA championship this year for his sixth attempt at the title.
This season could well be Cassidy’s last in the Asian open-wheel championship for some time too as the 26-year-old will likely relocate his base from Japan to Europe later this year to begin preparation for his debut Formula E season with Envision Virgin.
The opening Formula E race of the 2021 season is slated for January 16 and concludes in July. But with international travel restrictions likely to stay in place for some time as the world aims to stamp out Covid-19, it is doubtful whether Cassidy could return from Europe to Asia for another crack at the series.
He is expected to clarify his 2021 Super FORMULA plans some stage across the opening weekend at Motegi.
2020 is Cassidy’s fourth season in Super FORMULA, and last year’s championship proved to be incredibly tense. No driver in the field won more than one race and Cassidy only managed to usurp Noaki Yamamoto for the points lead at the final race in Suzuka.
Every race of this year’s seven-round series will be live streamed via YouTube and with the season opener set to kick off from 5 pm NZT August 30.
2020 Super FORMULA calendar
|Twin Ring Motegi
|Okayama International Circuit