Nick Cassidy feels his Super Formula title is ‘really special’ to him as it now means he has won all three of Japan’s major titles during his career.
The twenty-five-year-old New Zealander won the Super Formula crown by finishing second in the season finale at the Suzuka International Racing Course, with Cassidy edging out 2018 champion Naoki Yamamoto by just three points at the end of the seven-race season.
Driving for Vantelin Team TOM’S, Cassidy took one victory and three other podium results as he took his first Super Formula championship, with the result seeing him add this crown to his 2015 All-Japan Formula 3 title and his 2017 Super GT championship he achieved with Ryo Hirakawa.
“This one is kind of more special to me because now I’ve got the three [titles] in Japan,” Cassidy is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “That for me is the most [special].
“Obviously it’s more personal because it’s one driver, and then the challenges of the new car, Honda versus Toyota, a new team… to come out on top is really special.”
Cassidy admitted that finding out he was the 2019 champion brought out emotions that he felt probably made him sound ‘pretty stupid’ as he cried to his team on the radio on the in-lap.
“I don’t know how to describe the feeling,” said Cassidy. “I was crying on the in-lap. I’ve never done that before, I can’t remember the last time I cried.
“I think I sounded pretty stupid on the radio full of tears. It’s pretty special.”
Palou ‘My Main Worry’ heading into Finale – Cassidy
Cassidy acknowledged that he had gone into the race at Suzuka worried primarily about the pace of Alex Palou, who had started on pole position, but when the Spaniard, in contention for the championship himself going into the finale, began to drop back, things fell into his hands.
He made early on-track moves on Koudai Tsukakoshi, Nirei Fukuzumi and main championship rival Yamamoto, and was in prime position to move into the championship winning place when Palou faltered.
“My main worry today was Alex because this morning [during practice] he looked really fast. But we ended up having good speed in the race, so that’s good. Of course, it was a huge challenge given the situation, I think that’s why I’m so emotional.
“I wasn’t in the favoured position, but we made it work, which is amazing.”
Cassidy knew all he had to do in the season finale was to follow Team Mugen’s Tomoki Nojiri home to finish second, and although most of the race he felt comfortable, finding himself behind the lapped car of Jüri Vips made him slightly worried before he got ahead of the debuting Red Bull Junior driver.
“The only time I was worried was when I had Vips in front of me,” said Cassidy. “I got stuck behind him for a lap and a half. But the rest of the race was quite smooth.
“Nojiri-san had a nice pace, so I could follow him at a nice distance. I didn’t need to push to [catch] him, I just needed to go with him. I had a good image of the race [in my mind] and what needed to happen.”