IMSA: Nielsen Set To Make History As First Female Sports Car Titlist

RaceChaser Staff Road Racing, WeatherTech 0 Comments

Christina Nielsen can become the first woman to win a major full-season championship in North American professional sports car competition this weekend at the Petit Le Mans. (Scott R LePage/LAT for IMSA photo)

Christina Nielsen can become the first woman to win a major full-season championship in North American professional sports car competition this weekend at the Petit Le Mans. (Scott R LePage/LAT for IMSA photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Christina Nielsen is on the verge of making history by becoming the first woman to win a major full-season championship in North American professional sports car competition.

She’ll join Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Segal in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

The trio teamed to win earlier this season at Sebring and Watkins Glen, opening a commanding 32-point lead (299-267) over Dodge Viper drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) standings. Nielsen can claim the title by achieving the three-hour minimum driving time.

“We have our heads in the game,” said Nielsen, a 24-year-old native and resident of Denmark. “I have to drive my minimum time; we are leading the championship by quite a big chunk. And honestly, I am just looking forward to Petit. It’s my favorite track. I think it is an even better event when you are in contention for the championship, so that is going to play a role but I love that event and I can’t wait to be back.”

Starting the event will secure the second consecutive GTD team title for Scuderia Corsa, which won the 2015 crown with drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler. The California-based team also won the 2013 Rolex Series GT championship in its first full season, with Balzan and Jeff Westphal.

In GT Le Mans, Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, four-time winners in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, enter Petit Le Mans with an 11-point lead atop the GTLM standings, 314-303. They will be reunited with Marcel Fassler, who co-drove in the season-opening victories at Daytona and Sebring. Teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen are third in the standings with 290 points; they will share the No. 3 Corvette with Mike Rockenfeller.

Gavin and Milner also hold a one-point lead in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup for the four longest races on the WeatherTech Championship schedule.

“As a driver, you dream about coming to a race like Petit Le Mans with a lead in the championship,” Gavin said. “Tommy, myself and everyone on the No. 4 team knows what we have to do. If we have a clean race with no mistakes, we will reach our goal in the championship. It’s never easy to do that at Road Atlanta, though. The nature of the racetrack and the size of the field increase that challenge. I feel we are very prepared for the event on the heels of our test there last month. Everyone at Corvette Racing is feeling very positive heading into Petit Le Mans, so now it’s up to us to execute and do our jobs.”

Three-time race winners this year Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, second in the standings, will be joined by four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais will also compete for the team, joining Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the No. 66 Ford GT, reuniting the same driver lineup that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro class in June. Bourdais won in the Prototype class fwith Action Express Racing last year.

Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz return as defending GTLM winners of Petit Le Mans in the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR. Earl Bamber and Frederic Makowiecki will be joined by Michael Christensen in the No. 912.

“It’s a very special feeling to return to this racetrack a year after our amazing overall victory,” Pilet said. “I can still vividly recall that success. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my career. Petit Le Mans is one of the greatest classics in endurance racing, and to contest a 10-hour event at the end of a tough season is a huge challenge for every race driver. All in all, I’m looking forward to it. We’ve experienced a difficult season and it would be fantastic if we could end it with a victory.”

BMW Team RLL finished second overall at Petit Le Mans last year. John Edwards and Lucas Luhr return for the team, and will be joined by Kuno Wittmer in the No. 100 IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM. Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner and Augusto Farfus – fourth in GTLM in 2015 – will co-drive the No. 25 BMW M6.

Two Ferrari teams will be in action in GTLM. Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and James Calado will co-drive the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, while Scuderia Corsa returns to the class with the No. 68 Ferrari 488 GTE for Daniel Serra, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Andrea Bertolini.

CREDIT: IMSA Communications

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