Aucklander Nick Cassidy has won Japan’s premier motor racing championship, the Autobacs SUPER GT series, after finishing second in the final round at Twin Rings Motegi last night (Sunday night) in his Lexus LC500.
Cassidy and his co-driver Ryo Hirakawa finished just over six seconds behind the 2014 and 2015 champions Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli in the 53 lap, 250 kms race.
They went into the weekend with a six points lead over fellow Lexus drivers Kazuya Oshima and Andrea Caldarelli, who slipped back to third in the series.
Twenty-three-year-old Cassidy and Hirakawa won the opening round of the championship in April and also the penultimate race in Thailand last month.
In his debut in the championship last year, Cassidy finished fifth overall with a different co-driver. His efforts this year saw him finish ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, the ex-Formula One driver, who won 12 months ago.
While they slipped to third in the series at one point, Cassidy and Hirakawa’s consistency has been rewarded with the title, as they finished seven of the eight rounds in the top six, despite carrying handicap ballast and then a fuel flow restriction because of their early season success.
Cassidy joins a small select group of foreign drivers to take the title, Japan’s equivalent of V8 Supercars, which includes triple Le Mans 24 Hours race winner Andre Lotterer.
The sports coupes used by all teams in the series, have over 600 horsepower.
Cassidy and Hirakawa were fastest during Saturday’s practice and then qualified third for the race.
Twin Rings Motegi, 250 kms, Round 8 SUPER GT Championship
1, T Matsuda, R Quintarelli (Nissan GTR) 53 laps;
2, N Cassidy, R Hirakawa (Lexus LC500) 6.263 seconds behind;
3, Y Tachikawa, Hiroaki Ishiura (Lexus LC500) 13.353 seconds behind.
1, Cassidy, Hirakawa, 84;
2, Matsuda, Quintarelli, 82;
3, K Oshima, A Caldarelli (Lexus LC500) 63;