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NIELSEN: A History Making Championship

Christina Nielsen on her IMSA GTD championship win at Petit Le Mans…

Photo: Scuderia Corsa

Photo: Scuderia Corsa

I definitely started to feel the butterflies a little bit when my team said to me, “All right, Christina, pit next lap,” during my final stint at Road Atlanta.

So I just told myself, “Bring it home, bring it home!” I knew this was the moment.

When I first got out of the car after my three-hour stint as the new GT Daytona class champion, I didn’t know what to do.

I saw so many journalists and cameras that it was just easier to keep my helmet on for a second.

All I could think of doing was to lie down on the pit wall until the main person I wanted to talk to came over – my Scuderia Corsa teammate Alessandro Balzan. I needed a moment to myself.

I remember thinking: “OK, we are champions. We are champions!”

Following my stint, Scuderia Corsa pulled off a third-place podium finish at the season-ending Petit Le Mans even though we had trouble in the final hour.

We had a flat tire that required a late, unscheduled pit stop. Third place was really a nice way to finish the season – it was our seventh podium of the year. I finally got a good result at Petit!

When we arrived at IMSA’s WeatherTech Night of Champions on Monday night, it went super-fast because we had to be backstage the whole time since we received two awards.

We knew the GTD title was ours when my stint ended Saturday afternoon, but we learned Monday that we also won the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

We jumped to a tie for the North American Endurance Cup after the No. 73 Park Place Porsche team was assessed a penalty Monday a minimum drive-time violation involving driver Patrick Lindsey.

That dropped that team off the podium and moved up Scuderia Corsa to second in the race, putting us into a tie with No. 23 drivers Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas for first in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup driver standings.

Due to our team’s two victories, at Sebring and Watkins Glen, Scuderia Corsa won the tie-breaker and the 2016 Patrón Endurance Cup, along with the GTD driver championship.

It was a blast to battle both Magnus Racing and Alex Job Racing throughout the season. We had some really close races, and it was a pleasure to compete with those teams.

First, we went on stage to receive the Patrón Endurance Cup driver championship awards, followed by the GTD driver championship awards. It was absolutely amazing. To be honest, I didn’t prepare a speech; I chose to speak from the heart instead.

I decided to open the speech with something our engineer Joe said in the beginning of the year: “It’s not a matter of are we going to run into problems. It’s a matter of how we will choose to tackle them and overcome them.”

For me, that is an attitude, a way of working that the team has followed all season, and they have always given it their all to get the best out of whatever challenges crossed our way.

I cannot express how thankful I am for all the hard work they have done and how lucky I have been to be a part of Giacomo Mattioli’s team this year.

I then went on to thank my amazing co-drivers, who truly provided the team with stellar driving, smart choices and endless amounts of jokes and good times.

However, when I got to the part about thanking my dad for everything he has done for me, I couldn’t help it – a tear rolled down my face. I even got surprised by the overwhelming amount of emotions I was feeling, so I passed over the microphone to Balzan so I could have a moment to gather myself.

I could have said more, but I didn’t have to. I think my dad and everybody else in that moment knew how much this season meant to me.

Finally, we got called up to the stage for the last time to receive a Rolex watch. I think that was honestly the first time throughout this entire process that I was so proud to be a female standing on stage.

I looked to my right and I saw all of the other competitors, and I thought, “Wow, it’s really cool to be standing here as a woman with all of these successful male drivers.”

It also felt great to be standing there just as a driver, but I think that was one of the moments when it really sunk in.

It was great to see my passion for motorsports and racing and intense hard work pay off.

We had a great evening Monday, and on Saturday night after being crowned the champions, as well.

I think IMSA did a great job with the banquet, and I loved the venue at the Chateau Elan’s new Paris Ballroom.

I would also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to contact to me over the past week. Fans, friends, family – everyone. It is much appreciated, and I just love the support we have received after this win.

I’m really happy where I am. I’m looking forward to using the next couple of weeks to hopefully close some deals for next year and focus on 2017.

I’m really going to enjoy the American offseason as a champ!

Christina Nielsen (@ChristinaRacing) is the 2015 IMSA GT Daytona class championship runner-up finisher, driving for Scuderia Corsa in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Formula Racing in the European Le Mans Series.


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