Toyota’s brand-new GR Supra dominated the opening round of the new season three weeks ago at Fuji, locking out the top five, as Cassidy and his teammate in the #37 TOM’S car Ryo Hirakawa swept to a dominant victory.
That means the #37 car will be running with 42kg of ballast this weekend, with every point earned in the first race worth 2kg of extra weight for this weekend’s second round.
In addition, temperatures this weekend at Fuji are expected to be somewhat higher than the 26 degrees Celsius recorded at the start of the race three weeks ago.
As such, Cassidy expects Honda to put up a stronger showing with its front-engined NSX-GT, having only come away with a best finish of sixth for the curtain raiser.
“I think it changes massively,” Cassidy told Motorsport.com. “The temperature will definitely be hotter, but the main difference is the weight.
“On pure calculations, it looks like a 0.7s, 0.75s a lap of time loss [with the ballast]. But if you look at the results from the test that pretty much covers the top 14. You can go almost back to last on pure pace. But, of course, some other cars have weight as well.
“We’re mainly keeping an eye on the #17 [Real Racing Honda] and the #8 [ARTA Honda], they will be very fast. If we can have a clean race and be top six, that’s a huge result. If there are incidents, we can hope for more, but that’s down to luck.”
#37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
The second TOM’S Supra of Yuhi Sekiguchi and Sacha Fenestraz finished the Fuji opener in second and as such carry 30kg of ballast into this weekend’s race.
Fenestraz agreed with Cassidy’s assessment about the field being closer this weekend, while also noting that the #36 and #37 cars will be running more similar set-ups having gone in more opposing directions previously.
“I don’t know if Toyota will be as dominant before, but it gets harder and harder with the weight,” Fenestraz told Motorsport.com. “Honda will be racier now. I think all the Bridgestone Hondas will be quick, they have less weight than us.
“We were very different [on set-ups in Round 1]. But I think it was just us learning the car, it’s still a new car for everyone. Now we are back into something more similar to the #37 car.”
The #8 ARTA Honda of Nirei Fukuzumi and Tomoki Nojiri suffered an especially difficult race at Fuji three weeks ago as a result of choosing tyres that were too soft for the conditions, fading from second on the grid to a lowly eighth at the finish.
#8 ARTA NSX-GT
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
But GT500 rookie and ex-Formula 2 racer Fukuzumi expects that a convergence in tyre selection will mean there is a more even fight this weekend.
“[This weekend] we bring different tyres,” Fukuzumi told Motorsport.com. “First race, nobody [else] used our tyres but this time I think we are using the same tyre everybody else.
“I think it will be better. The Supra was very strong at the first race, now we know a lot of our problems and what we have to improve. Also they have more weight, which means there is a good chance for us.”
Cassidy believes that the #38 Cerumo Supra of Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura, which is carrying 16kg of ballast after finishing fourth in the opener, will be capable of battling for victory considering the size of the Supra’s advantage last time out.
“I think the #38 will be able to go for the win,” he said. “If Toyota’s performance is like round one, then they must be favourites.
“The #8 and #17 will be strong as well, and the #100 [Kunimitsu Honda] is still quite light [10kg of ballast], but 16kg is not too much. So if the Supra is strong, the #38 can definitely fight.”
#38 ZENT GR Supra
Photo by: GTA