‘Mega’ Fukuzumi tipped for Super Formula title bid

Reigning Super Formula champion Nick Cassidy has backed Nirei Fukuzumi to star in this year’s title fight off the back of his performance in last month’s Fuji pre-season test.

TOM’S driver Cassidy made the remark at the end of a day in which both sessions were topped by Fukuzumi, although the ex-Formula 2 racer and Dandelion Racing man fell 0.017 seconds shy of the quickest time of the two-day test overall set by Ryo Hirakawa.

“I already said at the end of last year, I think Fukuzumi is the man,” Cassidy told Motorsport.com. “I’m happy for him that he’s shown he can be quick again.

“In the second half of last year he outshone Naoki [Yamamoto, teammate], he’s getting stronger and it’s nice to see him leading the team.”

Fukuzumi is entering his second season as a full-time Super Formula driver, having contested a part-schedule in 2018 alongside his F2 commitments for Arden.

Prior to that he spent two years with ART Grand Prix in GP3, winning two races and placing third in the standings in 2017.

“He was against [Alex] Albon and [Charles] Leclerc in his first year [2016], and [Nyck] de Vries, and he stuck with them,” said Cassidy of Fukuzumi’s time in Europe.

“And then the next year, he got many poles against [George] Russell and [Jack] Aitken but he had a lot of misfortune. He still finished quite well in the championship.

“He’s shown he’s a mega driver but he was just unlucky with the situation in F2.”

Cassidy himself concluded the test sixth-fastest on the second day, behind only Hirakawa of the Toyota runners, and 12th-fastest across the two days.

“My time compared to the Toyotas was quite ok, but we’re missing a bit to Honda, quite honestly,” he said “Nothing has changed for us and I don’t expect it to change.”

Nirei Fukuzumi, Dandelion

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

For his part, Fukuzumi pointed to Impul driver Hirakawa as the man to beat, saying his rival could have gone considerably quicker during the first day of the test.

“In every session, Hirakawa was setting fast times, and his performance on new tyres seemed to be impressive,” Fukuzumi told Motorsport.com.

“Maybe during the time attack with new tyres on the first day, I think he made a small mistake. Without that he could have gone maybe a second or two faster.

“I didn’t feel like I was faster than Hirakawa, but I didn’t think the difference was so big.”

He added: “I want to keep up this performance. I want to keep the flow from this test as it’s important for the season, although honestly I don’t know when it will start.

“My target this year is to definitely get a pole position and a victory, so I want to work hard with the team to achieve this.”

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