Nick Cassidy and his partner Ryo Hirakawa lie second in Japan’s top race series, SUPER GT, after finishing sixth in the Suzuka 1000 kms last night in their Lexus LC 500.
The pair started Japan’s equivalent of Bathurst lying third in the championship. They qualified in eighth place and spent much of the event yo-yoing around positions at the bottom of the top ten.
All their main championship rivals were in a similar position as they were carrying the most ballast under the series weight handicapping rules.
For large chunks of the race between the five-compulsory pit stops Aucklander Cassidy and Hirakawa were in a train of cars contesting the minor places with nothing between them.
In his final stint at the wheel, Cassidy the former triple New Zealand Grand Prix winner, climbed to seventh place, passing former McLaren Formula One driver Jensen Button in the process.
Hirakawa then gained another spot in the run to the finish, where he was 36 seconds behind the winning car after 171 laps.
The race was won by Bernard Baguette and Kosuke Matsuura in an NSX, carrying a much smaller weight handicap. They are not in contention for the overall championship.
By finishing second the GTR of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda have taken the lead in the series. Previous championship leader James Rossiter could only finish ninth.
There are two rounds remaining at Thailand in October and Motegi in November, when all the weight handicapping is removed and Cassidy expects to be more competitive, like he was at the start of the season when he won the opening round.
Results, Round 6, Super GT Championship, Suzuka 1000 kms
1, B Baguette, K Matsuura (Honda NSX) 171 laps;
2, T Matsuda, R Quintarelli (Nissan GTR)
3, H Yamamoto, T Izawa (Honda NSX)
6, N Cassidy, R Hirakawa (Lexus LC 500).
1, Matsuda, Quintarelli, 59;
2=, Cassidy, Hirakawa, 48;
2=, K Oshima, A Caldarelli (Lexus LC 500), 48;
4, J Rossiter (Lexus LC 500), 47.