Nick Cassidy and his co-driver Ryo Hirakawa have leapt into the lead of Japan’s Super GT series after finishing second in the Fuji 500 miles, the longest race of the championship, in their Lexus LC500.
“It was a great result after we only qualified seventh,” said the 23-year-old Aucklander and defending champion. “Getting a seven-points lead with only three rounds remaining is a bonus.”
The downside is the pair now have to carry 94 kgs of ballast at the next round of the championship at Sugo in mid-September, 14 kgs more than the second and third placed cars in the series.
Cassidy started the race and by lap 10 was up to fourth place. After Hirakawa took over they dropped back to fifth, but when Cassidy got back behind the wheel for his second stint the Lexus rose to third.
Hirakawa maintained that position during his second turn at the wheel and just after Cassidy got back in the LC500 for the final laps, the leading Nissan GTR of Daiki Sasaki slowed with problems and lost two laps.
Cassidy then began closing on the leading car of Yuki Sekiguchi, but his efforts to close down the one second gap were thwarted by the continued need to lap back markers.
“Maybe I could have had a go at Yuki for the lead,” said Cassidy. “But getting past the slower GT300 cars meant I kept losing momentum.”
Cassidy and Hirakawa have taken advantage of their rivals’ problems in the longest race of the year. Previous series leader Heikki Kovalainen could only finish 11th, while Jensen Button who had been second on points was fifth.
Ronnie Quintarelli who had been third on points and qualified on pole position faded to a ninth-place finish.
Results. – Fuji 500 miles, Round 5, Super GT Series
1, Y Sekiguchi, K Nakajima (Lexus LC500) 177 laps;
2, N Cassidy, R Hirakawa (Lexus LC500) 1.54 seconds behind;
3, T Tsukakoshi, T Kogure (Honda NSX) 21.184.
1, Cassidy, Hirakawa, 47;
2, Nakajima, Sekiguchi, 40;
3, N Yamamoto, J Button (Honda NSX) 40