Winning the championship at the first time of asking with a new team is never an easy feat, but that’s precisely what Cassidy achieved this season in Super Formula as he stepped up to Toyota’s flagship TOM’S outfit after a two-year apprenticeship at Kondo Racing.
There was a certain irony in the fact that Cassidy's championship bid was built upon his showings at Suzuka, traditionally the stronghold of his chief rival Naoki Yamamoto. Victory in the opener set the tone for the season, even if it was aided by strategy, while his outstanding drive to second place in the season finale from sixth on the grid, on a day that Yamamoto uncharacteristically struggled, was enough to seal the title by three points. And you only have to look at team-mate Kazuki Nakajima’s frankly mediocre record in the sister TOM’S car to realise that this success was all down to the man behind the wheel.
In Super GT, a second title in three years narrowly slipped through Cassidy’s fingers and those of his TOM’S team-mate Ryo Hirakawa. But they assembled a magnificently consistent campaign considering the series’ success ballast system.
Without Team LeMans’ lucky break at the Fuji 500, there’s no doubt Cassidy and Hirakawa would have come out on top, but Cassidy still reasserted himself as Lexus’s top dog in Fuji's 'Super GT x DTM Dream Race'. There, he commanded the opening race from pole, making up for a rather bruising visit to the DTM season finale at Hockenheim – giving himself what he described as a Valtteri Bottas-style fuck you” moment after the stick he received for his forgettable trip to Germany.
Having been a fixture on the Japanese racing scene since 2015, Cassidy also branched out into international sportscar racing in '19 with GT3 outings in the Daytona 24 Hours for Lexus and the Spa 24 Hours in a HubAuto Corsa Ferrari.
Early next year, he’ll be racing in the Asian Le Mans Series in an LMP2 car as well, cementing his reputation as one of the most versatile racers in top-level motorsport. And at only 25, he still has plenty of years ahead of him to rack up even more success, be that in Japan or elsewhere.
“I’m super-proud to have fought for both championships, and to have won all three championships now in Japan [including Japanese Formula 3 in 2015, also for TOM’S] is pretty special, "says Cassidy. “I wouldn’t have dreamed of being in this position four years ago but I feel I’ve put together three great seasons [since 2017]. I would say especially in Super Formula I made the most of the bad days. I definitely don’t feel like we ever had the strongest car; it’s clear how strong Honda was this year, so to come out on top is crazy good.
“I’m pretty proud of that achievement. For sure it was a goal of mine to do well alongside Kazuki. Everyone knows his level, so that was a nice challenge for me. But even the result against the rest of the Toyota drivers was pretty different, so this year in that regard stands out a lot for me. In Super GT we finished six out of eight races in the top four, which isn’t usual at all in the championship because of the success ballast.
“I think it was probably our strongest year in terms of performance when you look at the averages. Obviously the championship was lost because of factors outside of our control, but considering how things looked after pre-season testing and the first race, I didn’t expect to even be in the position to fight for it, so it was a really good turnaround.”