New Zealand racer Nick Cassidy's march in Japan's premier series continue with breakthrough podium
Just five races into his maiden year in Japan's Autobacs Super GT Series, 22-year-old Nick Cassidy has proven his rookie status won't stop him from winning.
The series is a mix of DTM-modelled cars from Nissan, Honda, and Lexus racing alongside GT3 machinery from a range of manufacturers -- some of which are exclusive to the Japanese series. Each race typically runs from 250km to 500km, with the exception of the crown jewel, the Suzuka 1000km.
The series has an illustrious backlog of names in its annals, such as James Courtney, Wayne Gardner, David Brabham, and former Formula 1 stars Heikki Kovalainen, Ralf Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Off the back of a series win in the 2015 Japanese Formula 3 Championship, Cassidy was picked up by Toyota's Tom's Racing Lexus outfit. The young Kiwi juggles European Formula 3 Championship commitments with the factory Lexus drive in Japan, and knows how hard each event is.
Cassidy co-driver Daisuke Ito on the podium. Photo / TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
"As a driver you always go into every weekend aiming to challenge for the win, but my first four weekends in Super GT have taught me just how tough this championship is," said Cassidy.
"The level from all manufacturers, teams and drivers is really high, so we knew it was never going to be easy, especially as a rookie at this race."
Cassidy's latest performance alongside former Super GT Series champion Daisuke Ito brought the young Kiwi to the fore. The pair finished just 1.7 seconds behind eventual winners Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa in a race marred by changeable conditions and dicey decisions by officials.
Cassidy was passed under yellow flags by the race-winning car while a car was recovered; but there was no penalty for the pass, which was deemed legal.
Racing alongside Ito has been an eye-opener for the young Kiwi, who is looking to make a name for himself in Europe and Japan.
"It's been good driving with Daisuke. As the season goes on we are starting to learn a lot more from each other -- not just learning from him -- which is pushing us forward. Collectively as a team the relationships are getting closer every weekend, and performance has been on an upwards trend to this point."
With three races left in the 2016 season, Cassidy and Ito sit in a respectable fourth place in the 2016 standings, seemingly on the cusp of their first win together.