The TOM’S Toyota SUPER GT team has explained the “difficult” decision to leave Nick Cassidy on the sidelines for last weekend’s Motegi round.
Motorsport.com first reported last month that 2017 series champion Cassidy would miss the final two rounds of the 2020 campaign owing to his preparations for his 2021 Formula E campaign with Envision Virgin Racing.
Kenta Yamashita was drafted in to join TOM’S regular Ryo Hirakawa in the #37 Toyota GR Supra, with the pair finishing their first race as a duo on Sunday in sixth place.
Shortly after the previous round at Suzuka, Cassidy left Japan to take part in a private Formula E test at the Magione circuit in Italy, and it was believed that Japan’s 14-day quarantine requirement put paid to his hopes of driving at Motegi.
However, on November 1 the Japanese government’s immigration rules changed to allow foreign residents departing for less than seven days to avoid quarantining on their return.
Explaining the situation, the team director of the #37 TOM’S car, Jun Yamada, said that a pre-emptive decision was made to install Yamashita in the knowledge that Cassidy would be unavailable for this month’s Fuji season finale, which clashes with the official Formula E pre-season test at Valencia.
“The schedule for the final round and the Valencia [Formula E] test overlap, so we knew Nick definitely cannot do the last round at Fuji,” Yamada told Motorsport.com.
“Therefore, we decided Yamashita would do the final race. But in the interests of the team we wanted Yamashita to race at Motegi as well.
#37 KeePer TOM'S GR Supra
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
“The quarantine rules have changed, so Nick could have actually raced here. However, those rules were only announced on November 1, and we didn’t have time to prepare everything. So, we decided to have Yamashita do two races, also to allow him to get used to everything.
“Personally, I’m sad Nick isn’t here [at Motegi]. We’ve been together for a long time, so I feel bad. But considering the whole team, I think this was the only way.”
Yamada however clarified that, if the current quarantine rules don’t change, Cassidy should be clear to see out the Super Formula season, starting with this weekend’s Autopolis round.
There had been doubt over whether Cassidy would be able to race in the Suzuka double-header, which follows just a few days after the Valencia Formula E test.
“Nick will drive in the Autopolis Super Formula race. He has already returned to Japan, so he will definitely be able to race there,” said Yamada.
“At this stage, Suzuka is also ok. However, we don’t know if the quarantine rules will change again. It’s possible that 14 days of self-isolation will be needed again. If that happens, he may not be able to race at Suzuka.”
Cassidy currently lies second in the Super Formula points standings following his victory in the most recent round at Sugo, 15 points behind Impul rival Hirakawa.