Nick Cassidy has experience aplenty at 20
“I started racing when I was 6. I’ve always been around it, I’ve always loved it, but obviously your knowledge of the sport will never stop growing.”
Wise words when it comes to motorsport, really. In a world where anything from the latest technological development to simply taking a slightly different line through a corner can make the difference between winning and losing (and there is, as any racing driver will tell you, nothing else), constantly learning and improving is essential.
So who was the clearly seasoned pro who uttered those words? An established winner with many years’ experience? A multiple championship winner? An elder statesman of the racing world?
Yes to all of those things. Except the last one, as the driver sitting opposite me during BMW NZ’s xDrive Alpine experience in Queenstown is only 20.
Nick Cassidy exudes the sort of easy confidence and level-headed common sense that I certainly never possessed at his age and still isn’t my strongest attribute at twice his age ...
But then, I was never 14 years into a successful motor racing career at 20 either. But Auckland-born Cassidy certainly is.
Progressing up through the usual junior series in New Zealand, Cassidy first started capturing the headlines when he secured a drive in the Toyota Racing Series, eventually going on to win the championship three times and helping develop the TRS car that debuted on the track this season.
“I did three years in Toyota, but you can only win it a certain amount of times,” Cassidy says in a matter-of-fact way, without a trace of either arrogance or irony.
“Then I went to do Formula Renault in Europe, but it was never really a full championship. The first year I did three rounds, then just did some testing and stuff like that. It was a little bit all over the shop in terms of not really doing one thing properly.
“In 2014 I did some races in the Formula 3 Euro Series, but all the time testing other things,” he says.
“The tests were always going really, really well, which kept me up there even though I wasn’t doing any races.”
Then came the 2014 Macau Grand Prix where Cassidy put in an incredible performance (that he admits even surprised him) to finish third in the prestigious F3 race. This, combined with his performance in the few European F3 races he did, started his phone ringing.
“Since Macau I have been racing for the TOMS Formula 3 team in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship, so I’ve been living in Japan this year. But then BMW’s my link to Europe, so I’ve had a couple of trips to Europe for races there,” Cassidy says, casually omitting to say that he currently holds the lead of the championship with just two rounds to go.
But it is the BMW link he does mention that has the potential to form the next major step in his career, as Cassidy was chosen to be one of only four participants in the BMW Motorsport Junior Programme for 2015.
“BMW invited around 40 to 50 applicants,” says Cassidy. “Everyone went to Munich in January for an interview — apart from me! I was working for TRS in NZ, so just spoke to them on the phone.”
Following the initial interview, eight candidates were selected to attend a shootout in March, with four being taken into the programme.
While most of Cassidy’s experience has been in single seaters, the BMW programme is more focused on the GT/Touring series.
But because the Formula 3 European series is arguably one of the toughest junior formulas in the world at the moment, the German manufacturers are very keen on the idea of taking their future DTM drivers from the F3 ranks around the world.
While the programme has traditionally featured a drive in the VLN Endurance Championship races held at the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, current restrictions placed on the track by its owners have put a halt to that and Cassidy will get only a single endurance race at the end of the year, but there is to be plenty of training, simulator work and testing events between now and then.
“At the end of the day, BMW are bringing out the M6 racing car and they are really wanting to get into endurance racing, so they can have a GT3 car and a GTE car, and the DTM programme is really strong still, so there are a lot of options.”
There certainly are, and it is obvious that Cassidy is more than capable of taking on any of them.