Christina Nielsen only needed to drive three hours at the 10-hour Petit Le Mans to clinch the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT-Daytona title for herself and her co-driver, Alessandro Balzan. So her task that day was simple – take the green flag and drive three hours straight to secure the championship.
And it worked. Although, after a three-hour and eight-minute stint at the wheel around the fast and demanding Road Atlanta circuit, while she battled for GT-Daytona class position while staying clear of Prototypes, Christina wouldn’t have called it ‘simple.’
“It did seem a bit long in the first couple of laps, because we knew there were still two hours and 50 minutes to go!” said Nielsen. “But it was definitely tough battling because everyone knew I had something to lose. I was a bit more careful than normal. It was hard racing for a 10-hour race. I always had the championship on my mind. I wanted to get this done. I had to get my drive time in. Otherwise, I couldn’t relax.”
It’s been quite a season for Christina. She crossed the Atlantic several times as she raced in both the IMSA championship and the European Le Mans Series. She competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time, won the 12 Hours of Sebring and 6 Hours of the Glen, and of course captured the IMSA championship. And with Jeff Segal, she and Balzan also captured the North American Endurance Cup made up of the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 6 Hours of the Glen and Petit Le Mans.
There have obviously been numerous women who have excelled at sports car racing before Christina, but IMSA quickly labeled her as the first woman to win a major, full-season professional sports car championship in North America.
“I’m not always crazy about how much attention there is because I’m a female,” said Nielsen. “But, I do want to spread the message and say ‘Hey, women can compete with men on an equal level.’ We can compete with them and against them, and we can do well in a male-dominated world. I’m not trying to get more females in the sense of recruiting them because it’s either in your DNA or it isn’t. But I hope that if there are girls who want to do it, they can look at me and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”
Christina has also recently relocated to Los Angeles. Danish by birth, Christina has become a regular fixture here at CXC Simulations, routinely preparing for new circuits on the Motion Pro II machines that we have in our showroom.
“I use CXC Simulations for training all the time on the circuits that I race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and in the European Le Mans Series,” said Nielsen. “I was very impressed the first time I tried it with the Virtual Reality headset. It is the best simulator experience I’ve tried so far. I normally get a bit of motion sickness, and I got none of that with this system. Instead, it feels even closer to what it is actually like in the race car and on those circuits.”
Follow Christina on twitter (@ChristinaRacing) and Facebook (facebook.com/christinaracing).