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24H Le Mans

NIELSEN: Ready for 24H Le Mans Debut

Christina Nielsen files her latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Christina Nielsen Racing

Photo: Christina Nielsen Racing

Time has flown since Formula Racing announced our deal in December to race at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Now, I’m back in Europe, ready to make my debut with the all-Danish team. Le Mans is our ultimate goal – I’m a second-generation Le Mans driver and I’ve been looking forward to this race my entire career.

My schedule leading up to Le Mans has been really busy. I’ve been back in America with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, most recently the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on June 4 in Detroit.

My Scuderia Corsa teammate, Alessandro Balzan, and I claimed a third-place finish and a third consecutive podium finish in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 in Detroit. We have expanded our lead in the GT Daytona standings and I’m hoping that momentum carries over with me to Le Mans.

From a champagne shower on the podium in Detroit to an actual shower before my eight-hour plane ride to France with eight other IMSA drivers, we were ready to go to testing at Le Mans Sunday morning.

Thank God for adrenaline because by the end of the day, my energy level was ready to hit zero. However, getting to race in the streets of Detroit and the streets of Le Mans in just one weekend is an experience I would never turn down and I enjoyed every moment.

Following the Test Day, I flew home to Denmark and was able to spend a brief, but welcome, time with my family.

I got to meet the latest addition to our family – my newest niece. Watch out world – there is another Nielsen chick ready to dominate! Of course, I got her a pink onesie that says “I’m just as cute as my auntie.”

The rest of my time in Denmark was consumed with public relations work, including media interviews, simulator training, cardio and weight lifting – all in preparation for what’s ahead.

Le Mans is the biggest race my teammates, Mikkel Mac and Johnny Laursen, and I have all year. Mikkel and Johnny are also driving in Le Mans for the first time. So, we’re all new to this.

We’re going to go into this together and support each other the best way we can. It’s a race that requires a lot of preparation, which is why it’s safe to say that we haven’t been wasting any time off track or on track in our No. 60 Ferrari F458 Italia.

This race is exhausting for the driver – both physically and mentally. There are other 24-hour races, such as the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but in that race, there are four drivers. There are just three at Le Mans. You don’t get as much time to rest, relax and recharge between stints.

I’ll need to be in the car longer and put in more hours than ever. Fitness and nutrition have played a huge role in my race preparation, and, of course, a lot of time in the car helps.

One of the things I’m truly looking forward to, but I’m also a little intimidated by, is to drive in the dark. Everyone talks about how amazing it is to go around the circuit in the middle of the night, and I can’t wait to try that.

It will be special to find that rhythm, peacefulness and quietness while also enduring the storm of being out there by yourself, with only the radio connection to your team and tons of headlights from other drivers who are trying to make it through the 24 hours.

In general, I’m excited about the whole experience. Le Mans is something unique. That’s why so many drivers strive to be there. That is one of the reasons why it also feels pretty amazing to say I’m going to be the first female Danish driver competing at Le Mans.

My teammates and I are proud to be writing a little bit of history, but in the end, I’m another driver who is looking forward to getting on track and racing just like everyone else.

As a Dane, I think I’m also a bit more aware of wanting to do well at Le Mans in front of the Danish population. There’s so many Danish fans, and it’s amazing how much attention the race gets from media and Danish fans.

After all, a Dane – Tom Kristensen – won Le Mans nine times, more than anyone in history.

But, of course, most importantly, you want to do well for yourself, your team, co-drivers and all of the people who have put in their hard work for you to drive in one of the most iconic endurance races in the world.

Going into an endurance race like this, you really need the support of your co-drivers and your entire team, so I can’t wait to go through this journey with them. It truly is a team effort. Everyone needs to perform – if one person fails, it will hurt everyone.

It’s a lot of pressure. Therefore, supporting each other is crucial, especially when facing challenges. It’s something we do together: We win together, we lose together, we fight together, and hopefully we accomplish a podium together.

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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