Christina Nielsen and Patrick Long say they are eager to join forces as North America’s reigning GT3 champions prepare to take on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Wright Motorsports.
Nielsen, the two-time and defending GT Daytona champion, and Long, who is the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge GT winner after a narrow runner-up finish in 2016, find themselves in the same car this season as Wright transitions back to endurance racing.
While the two may be new to racing together as teammates, the connections between the pair are longstanding.
“Personally I’ve known her for quite some time even back to her days in karting,” Long told Sportscar365. “I’ve watched her progress. She’s very determined, very confident, and very goal oriented.
“I’d like to think that we’ll get right to work and so far it’s felt really natural. So far it’s been great.
“I have to say Christina has been a morale leader. She’s very social, very outgoing, very easy to get to know where I can be a little more edgy depending on the time of the day. I’ve just tagged along and let the youth lead.”
Nielsen said she considers her new co-driver to be one of the greats of his era, and someone she’s known for a long time.
“Patrick is a legend here in America, let’s just face it,” she said. “He’s definitely one of the names that people know, that they remember and probably always will remember.
“My dad [Lars Erik] used to drive with Patrick, so there’s a bit of family connections there, which is really nice.”
After two succesful seasons with Scuderia Corsa and Ferrari, Nielsen said her switch to the Porsche-affiliated Wright operation has been a team that’s been on her radar.
“The first year I raced in America, I raced in the Porsche [GT3] Cup [Challenge USA by Yokohama] series, and I actually raced against Wright Motorsports, so I’ve known them for quite a while,” Nielsen said.
“To be able to finally join forces and take advantage of an opportunity that presented itself, it feels great to be with them.
“It’s something that we’ve been talking about for years, but haven’t had the chance to actually make it a reality, and now we’re finally there.
“I feel like it’s a really strong effort. I’m with a strong team. I am with one of the teams that can win the championship in 2018.”
Long has spent the better part of the last two seasons with the John Wright-led operation, and while the team has not been involved in endurance racing in recent years, Long says he’s confident the team is up for the challenge.
“I think they’ve proven in the few seasons that they’ve come to do either a full championship or a handful of races, they understand what it takes,” he said.
“The progression of the GTD championship in teams and drivers means that this is the tallest challenge that they will face as a team. I find that Christina and I are in the same boat. We’re looking at this as a team effort rather than drivers and team.
“I think it has to be perfect days from everyone to be on the podium in this day and age.
“Driving for CORE, Alegra, and WeatherTech [in the WeatherTech Championship] last year, I learned that just a little difference in how you run the car can make a difference of five to ten grid positions.
“It’s great. It means you have to squeeze every last hundredth of a second.”