Kiwi Nick Cassidy ready for back-to-back battles in Japan
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Come August 26, Nick Cassidy will take on arguably one of the biggest races in Asia with a shot at making motorsport history. But before that he has one box to tick off; and that's to finish strongly in the fifth round of Japan's Super Formula series at Twin Ring Motegi.
Having tested the Kondo Racing SF14 a handful of times before this season, Cassidy came into this year a rookie. But that hasn't stopped him from setting his own benchmark high with a third-place finish in just his second round.
"Overall in Super Formula, I've been really happy because we've had three weekends, and at each one we've made huge steps," Cassidy said.
"To get a podium at Okayama was unbelievable. It was the first win for the team in four years and the first for me in only my second weekend in the category.
"I didn't expect it at all. It's a surreal feeling."
The third round was a tougher exchange for the Kiwi who was sent off the track at Fuji Speedway on the opening lap, but that hasn't dampened his confidence.
In comparison to other rookies in the season, Cassidy is up there with the best. He sits on nearly equal terms with his fellow rookies; 2016 GP2 Series champion Pierre Gasly and Macau Grand Prix winner Felix Rosenqvist.
Cassidy is realistic and knows where he needs to improve. His downfall at Fuji came down to his poor start off the line, which is something he wants to work on.
"Every start of mine has been rubbish, so it's something I need to work on. It's probably the thing that's stopping me from consistenly scoring points."
A week after Motegi, Cassidy will head to Suzuka Circuit where he will be one of 46 drivers contesting the 46th Suzuka 1000km.
It'll be a historic day in Japanese motorsport with the annual 1000km endurance format ending in 2018.
A 10-hour race will replace the 1000km event, but it will not be open to the GT500 field.
Whoever wins, this year's race will likely be the last.
While Super Formula is a single-driver effort, the Autobacs Super GT Series is a dual-driver job. Cassidy will be paired with Ryo Hirakawa in the Red Bull KeePer TOM'S Racing Lexus LC 500.
Last year he was paired with Daisuke Ito, and the pair nearly won the 173-lap race in a dramatic finish that saw the top two covered by a second.
That performance by Cassidy last year -- alongside his first win with Hirakawa earlier this year at Okayama International Circuit -- has given him he confidence he needs to try win again.
"I'm confident for Suzuka, but it's a race that, if one little thing goes wrong, you can be out of it quickly. I'm aware that everything has to go right on the day. You've got to have good speed in every stint, good strategy, no mistakes and good pit stops.
"I want to challenge for the championship this year. There's a lot of boxes to tick to be there at the end.
"Even though I'm confident, anything can happen."