Nick Cassidy: Japan to Europe, Super GT to DTM

Kiwi driver Nick Cassidy is currently based in Europe having established both himself and a career in Japan for a number of years. Having won the 2015 Japanese Formula 3 Championship, he went on to win both the 2017 Super GT and 2019 Super Formula Series, both as a Toyota factory driver. On the face of it, there was nothing left to achieve. Now he has made the switch to Europe, basing himself in Monaco, got a drive in Formula E with Envision Virgin Racing and has recently confirmed a part-time drive with Red Bull Racing in the 2021 DTM Series, alongside fellow Kiwi Liam Lawson with AF Corse.

Having two Kiwi drivers in the German DTM Series has sparked a lot of interest back home. I caught up with Nick and asked, ‘How did he get the Red Bull drive in the DTM Series?’

“I had done everything I could in Japan, unless I stayed there and repeated it,” he replied. “Life there is very good, quite stable and so supported by Toyota. Heading over to Europe is quite a big change in a short amount of time.

“Toyota were keen for me to continue with Super GT but is hasn’t been possible with all the travel restrictions.

“With what is going on with the pandemic, everything is not clear cut with motorsport. There are going to be challenges in FE with being able to race in city centres. There have been a number of curve balls. The future is still very bright but we need a return to normality.

“I’ve been with Red Bull now for several years. We have talked for some time about several things including driving their car in Super GT. That was never going to happen. Then late last year they talked about DTM.”

The key here is the relationship between Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and ex F1 driver Gerhard Berger, who now heads up the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM). Berger was the first Red Bull driver, often seen with a can of the drink while driving in F1 for Ferrari.

Having a Red Bull team in the revamped 2021 DTM Series makes sense so it was a matter of who would drive, what they would drive and the team to run them.

It appears that Cassidy’s name was in the mix very early on in setting up a Red Bull team.

“Pre Abu Dhabi, it was unsure what was happening with Alex (Albon)” – who was dropped from the Red Bull F1 Racing program.

“When the DTM calendar came out, I couldn’t do all the races due to my commitment to FE, so it made sense to combine Alex and myself in the car.

“When I heard that Liam (Lawson) would be in the second car, that was pretty cool.

“We are really flat out between March and Sept with FE, racing every second weekend. Envision Virgin Racing is a customer team of Audi. The plan is for a two-week program running up to each race. This involves simulator work at Silverstone (UK), heading over to Audi in Nuremberg (Ger) for more simulator work leading up to the race. Hence it is difficult to be involved in other events.”

For us back in New Zealand, the prospect of having two drivers competing in DTM is somewhat exciting. But let’s be clear. There is no comparison between the Japanese Super GT and the 2021 DTM Series’.

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“I’ve come out of Super GT with crazy downforce so still quite used to super performance. The GT3 car will be quite different.”

Cassidy says that he would be more suited to a LMP2 car, so what about an option to drive at Le Mans or in the World Endurance Championship?

“It’s always an option but you’ll find that all the teams pretty much have their driver line-up sorted for the season, including Le Mans. There are also many drivers who are positioning themselves for WEC drives, particularly with the new LMDh and Hypercar categories getting underway.”

While the GT3 cars in the 2021 DTM may be a step backwards in performance for Cassidy, there is still plenty of excitement back home with the prospect of two Kiwi drivers competing in the category.

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits talkmotorsport.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

http://talkmotorsport.co.nz

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