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Kiwis conquer motorsport: 'We have a strong will to succeed'

Kiwis conquer motorsport: 'We have a strong will to succeed'

12-11-2023 17:00

Ludo van Denderen

For a country of just over five million people, New Zealand is producing a strong generation of racing drivers. Liam Lawson impressed in Formula 1 in recent months. Brandon Hartley has been one of the absolute best in the WEC, while Mitch Evans has been an established name in Formula E for many years. Nick Cassidy - after last season in FE alone - also belongs to New Zealand's elite club.

One almost wonders what is in the water in New Zealand that makes it such a hotbed for racing talent? Immediately, there is a laugh. "It depends which area you go to. I wouldn't drink the [water] everywhere," says Cassidy (29) during an exclusive chat with GPblog. To continue on a serious note: "I don't know [why there is so much talent]. It's incredible to see so many drivers at the pinnacle of many championships. I don't have an answer for you, but it's really cool to see."

Perhaps it helps that in New Zealand, juniors are given a chance in motorsport at a very young age. Cassidy nods in agreement. "I got into car racing through what was called the Speedsport Scholarship. When I was 13, this allowed me to race a formula car. We don't have the surroundings of world kart championships, but we probably have the advantage of moving to cars early. So we're arriving at the Toyota Racing Series (an internationally highly regarded racing class for talent) almost quite prepared in a way."

New Zealand is a small outlet for Formula 1 and Formula E

New Zealand is a relatively small (car) market, a country where Formula 1 and Formula E races are often televised in the middle of the night. All the more special that drivers from the country are brought to Europe or the United States to race in top classes. "I think that's true," Cassidy responds. "I don't want to downplay it because I think per capita, the interest in motorsport back home is huge. We have a really, really nice racing culture back home, per capita, but it is obviously a small market."

"So in terms of what we can bring to the table [sponsorship money], it's obviously hard to compete sometimes. But every one of us who's travelled 30 hours around the world has done it for a reason because we're super hungry. We love the sport, and we want to race and do our best. So that drive and that want to be here is really strong. So it becomes quite different compared to racing in your backyard."

So that racing culture is there in New Zealand, says Cassidy: "Like with Formula One and IndyCar, supercars, they're really well followed. There's a lot of passion. We're still working on that with Formula E. It's not easy to build the following in New Zealand for Formula E. But I hope especially, with Mitch and I being in the same team, it's exciting. Last year between us, we won a lot of races. I hope that helps the growth of the championship in New Zealand."

New dynamics at Jaguar

Two Kiwis in the same top team in Formula E is an even greater achievement. Cassidy will be the teammate of Mitch Evans next season, who finished third in the championship last year with Jaguar. "Obviously, Kiwis are not the most likeable people, so it's tough for everyone around." The smile returns. "It's cool. He does his thing, I do mine, and we'll sort the rest out, but it's a lot of fun," Cassidy says.

There may be a new dynamic between the two of them, though, as they are not only compatriots but also friends. "Yes, but that was the same last year. That's the same every year. Last year, we were in different teams. If anything, the rivalry should have been more. Now, we have a responsibility to do the best for Jaguar and the brand, the team. So I think it's quite exciting and quite cool."

Cassidy aims for championship in Formula E

Champion in the likes of Japanese Super Formula, Super GT and the Toyota Racing Series. Race winner in DTM and Formula E, among others. Nick Cassidy's record is one to be proud of. About his next goal, the new Jaguar driver doesn't have to think for a second: take the title in Formula E. "I think when you finish second in the championship, you're silly not to be aiming for it, right?" Cassidy bounces the ball straight back.

Four wins were taken by the then-Envision Racing driver, but the title went to Jake Dennis. Cassidy finished second, a big improvement from a season earlier. In 2022, he finished the year 11th. Soon, Cassidy will start his fourth season in the premier electric racing class. "I think my first year in Formula E was not bad. It was maybe a little bit inconsistent. But I finished my first year in Formula E with less than one race win off winning the World Championship. I don't think my first year was a disaster."

"My second year, I was very impatient. I was very frustrated. I was used to winning championships in Japan, fighting for the win all the time. And it wasn't happening. And I put myself into a hole. I didn't perform well. I was just proud to get out of that in the second half of the year. I'm on a good momentum streak now."

Jaguar aims to finally deliver on big promise

Cassidy hopes to take that final step towards the world title with Jaguar, an absolute top team that also craves their first Formula E championship. It was Jaguar's customer team Envision that won the constructors' title last season with Cassidy. "Jaguar's history of motorsport is outstanding. Now they've come back in Formula E, and it's been a really exciting time for them. If you look at their last three, four years, especially in my opinion, they've always been strong, fighting for the championship in Formula E. So the chance for me to join a manufacturer like Jaguar was just too good to turn down," says Cassidy. And taking that final step with Jaguar his own career and for the team? "I was very fortunate to be driving a Jaguar-powered car last year. I'm sure that we have the performance to really, really fight for the championship.'