IMSA Spotlight: Christina Nielsen
Driver: No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3
Talk about your first GTD win. How was the race? How did you celebrate?
“This is the biggest step in my career so far. I’m still so happy, like over the moon happy, and can describe it. I actually didn’t think we were going to run for the victory since we ran into a few challenges during the race but everyone on the team kept pushing and fighting and it was obvious that it was the result of a strong team effort. I really cannot thank my team and co-drivers enough for the job they did.
“When we got to the podium, we all had a celebratory tequila shot – apparently that’s a tradition the team has that I have now been introduced to. From the podium and all the way back to the hotel, with a quick pitstop at McDonalds, it was all laughs and good times.
“But we were a bit tired to celebrate so we settled in with one beer and McDonalds on the way back home. I also had a test in Europe coming up – which is where I am now – so I needed to try and reload my batteries as much as possible!”
You spent a lot of time in the rain on both the Continental wet and dry tires. How was the performance?
“The performance of the dry tires with the Ferrari was really good. The drop between new tires and used tires wasn’t very big and they were quite consistent, which was critical for us by the end of the race when [Alessandro] Balzan drove a long stint on the same tires.
“The rain tires were a bit harder to judge since our car was a super car for dry conditions. It was hard to handle under the wet!”
This is the first time you’ve raced the new Ferrari 488 GT3. How does it compare to the Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 you raced at Daytona?
“Ferrari has done an amazing job. They truly improved and I feel lucky to be a part of the 488’s new journey. And to kick it off with a victory feels pretty good.
“For sure the factory has delivered a car that is a strong weapon among all the new GT3s that have entered the championship this year. We still have room to grow and learn but that’s a part of what makes it exciting.”
The competition in the GTD class is tight, and you were also in a fight for the GTD championship last season. What will it take to win the title this year?
“It’s going to be super tough to win the championship this year with the level of competition we are in. We were close last year and I believe that we have a shot again this year.
“Winning a championship with a high level of competition just gives you even more prestige as a driver and it makes you feel like you truly earned it with hard work. So I’m up for the challenge but I know it is not going to be easy.”
You’ve recently relocated to Los Angeles. How are you enjoying life in sunny Southern California?
“This is now my second year in Cali and so far it’s been good to me. I’m now down in LA and getting to know that area and settling in. However, I’m now in Europe for the next month because of racing [in the European LeMans Series] so Cali will have to wait a bit but I cannot wait to be back.”