One of the stars behind the wheel of the Lexus RC F GT3s at last weekend’s 24 Hours of Daytona was Nick Cassidy. The New Zealander, part of the crew that finished sixth in the GTD class, was unique among the two-car AIM Vasser Sullivan team’s driver roster as the only one who also races for Lexus in the prestigious Super GT series in Japan.
“I came to watch the race in 2017 but this was my first time running at Daytona,” he says. “Racing on the banking is a cool experience but overall as a racetrack, it’s quite simple. The cars are the bigger difference for me.”
The more open regulations of the GT500 class in Super GT mean that the LC 500 that Cassidy drives (below) in Japan has much more power, downforce and grip than the RC F GT3 (above), which has a specification much closer to a high-performance production car.
“It requires a change of mindset,” he says. “There’s much more feeling involved with the RC F – you’re driving to the tyre [grip] rather than to the aerodynamics. But it’s a very user-friendly car: GT3 cars are built for ‘gentleman’ drivers, so it’s a little bit easier.”
Nick Cassidy: a little help from his friends
Cassidy, who also races for Toyota in the single-seat Super Formula in Japan, cites the assistance of his team-mates – and in particular Britain’s Jack Hawksworth (below centre) – in helping him to adjust to the RC F.
“Jack also has a single-seater background, coming from IndyCar, and has been with Lexus for two years now,” he says. “The things that I’m learning now are processes that he’s already been through in transitioning from IndyCar.”
Nick Cassidy: managing the Daytona traffic
Another change for Cassidy at Daytona was the need to watch out for faster cars approaching from behind, since the GT3 machines race alongside the faster, Le Mans-style GTLM and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) machines.
“GT500s like the LC 500 are probably the fastest GT cars in the world,” says Cassidy. “The lap times are probably similar to a DPi’s. We have GT3s in our races in Japan, too, so for me at Daytona it’s the opposite experience to have cars passing me!
“The spotters, who are in radio contact from high on the roof of the grandstand, are a new thing for me, but they are a great help,” he continues. “The hardest part comes at night, when the depth perception is harder. You have lights in your mirrors and it’s hard to tell what’s coming up on you.”
Cassidy is focused on his Super GT campaign for this year, which begins in April. However, the Team TOM’S driver hopes that there will be further opportunities to race in different series for Lexus in the future.
“It’s great to be able to work with Lexus in another part of the world,” sums up the 2017 Super GT champion. “I’m proud to be here in America – at the moment we don’t have many drivers going between the programmes, so I hope that this could be the start of something [regular]. Lexus has a pool of very strong drivers and it would be nice to open up that communication between the teams.”
The sister #12 RC F GT3, driven by Townsend Bell, Aaron Telitz, Jeff Segal and Frank Montecalvo finished third in the GTD category.