Reigning Japanese Formula 3 champion Nick Cassidy will race full-time for Lexus Team TOM’s in the Super GT Series in 2016, as was announced at Toyota’s 2016 motorsport press conference in Japan.
21-year-old Cassidy, who won the Japanese F3 title last year with TOM’s, will drive the famous number 36 Lexus RC-F in the GT500 category, alongside former series champion Daisuke Ito.
Cassidy has already made his Super GT debut, when he competed in the GT300 class as a one-off entry in the Suzuka 1000km for Team Upgarage with Bandoh.
He replaces former F1 test driver James Rossiter in the 36 car, with the Briton moving over to their second entry, the #37 KeePer RC-F, to join Toyota Young Driver Programme star Ryo Hirakawa.
“It is every young drivers dream to become a factory supported racing driver, so I am extremely proud to be joining Lexus TOM’S team this year,” Cassidy said of his new role.
“I know I have a steep learning curve ahead of me, but I am ready to do everything that is possible to learn off those around me.”
A double champion in his native Toyota Racing Series, Cassidy won the Japanese F3 title in his first season after winning both races in a last-round showdown with team-mate Kenta Yamashita. He also scored podiums in two European F3 appearances with Prema.
Lexus Racing’s six-team, twelve-driver lineup for 2016 also includes former F1 Grand Prix winner Heikki Kovalainen in his second year in the series, and reigning Japanese Super Formula champion Hiroaki Ishiura.
The number 36 TOM’s RC-F has previously won three GT500 championships, and their previous sponsorships from Castrol and Petronas have created some of the most iconic GT500 cars in history.
Among the notable drivers who have driven the number 36 car in years past include former F1 drivers Kazuki Nakajima, Erik Comas, and Pedro de la Rosa, as well as Le Mans 24 Hours champions Andre Lotterer, Loic Duval and Masanori Sekiya, and former 500cc motorcycle world champion Wayne Gardner.
With last year’s debut, Cassidy became the second New Zealander to race in Super GT – after the late Mark Porter, who raced in GT300 for Mazda in 1998.
Cassidy’s first season in Super GT begins 10 April at Okayama International Raceway.