Christina Nielsen believes that her previous experience of Suzuka Circuit will pay dividends in this weekend’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round.
The two-time IMSA champion has continued her busy 2019 schedule, competing in three series with three different teams and two different cars, although returns to Suzuka, site of a recent Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia round that she contested.
While having finished outside of the top-five with Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in both 60-minute sprint races, Nielsen believes that experience will help her in this weekend’s Suzuka 10 Hours as part of Strakka Racing’s lineup.
“It’s really nice to have been here before,” Nielsen told Sportscar365.
“Every time I go to a race in Asia, I’ve never been to the circuit before. So it’s always a bit of a steep learning curve.
“Also because you do 45 minutes, times two and one 30-minute session and it’s split between two drivers and there’s normally always red flags. So you don’t normally get a lot of run time before the weekend starts in the Asian series.”
Nielsen has teamed up with Dominik Baumann and Adrian Henry D’Silva in the Pro-Am class Mercedes this weekend, in what’s been a rotation of co-drivers and teams for the Dane this year in IGTC competition.
A last-minute ride with Black Falcon saw Nielsen claim a fifth place class finish in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which was followed by a deal to complete the season with fellow Mercedes-AMG squad Strakka.
Baumann and Nielsen were joined by Adam Christodoulou for the California 8 Hours, while IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship co-drivers Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heinstand joined the Dane and David Fumanelli in the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Nielsen’s World Challenge Asia co-driver/team principal Darryl O’Young, meanwhile, connected her with Malaysian driver d’Silva, who she is sharing the Mercedes with this weekend, where she feels a class podium is “definitely” within reach.
“We’re in Pro-Am so I can definitely say a podium would be nice,” Nielsen said. “I don’t think anybody shows up to be second. It’s a ten-hour race.
“First you have to make it through the start and get through one hour at a time.
“Once we get to the final two or three hours, we’ll see where we’re at and plan out the strategy according to that.”
The team is coming back from a setback in Friday’s Paid Practice session, which saw an incident by d’Silva.
Nielsen’s Busy Season “Gone Beyond” Expectations
Nielsen admitted her season, that will see her take part in at least 20 race weekends, has surpassed her initial expectations for this year.
Left without a full-time ride in the WeatherTech Championship following Wright Motorsports’ departure from the series, Nielsen initially only had a Michelin Endurance Cup-only program with Meyer Shank Racing secured for 2019, prior to her World Challenge Asia and IGTC deals, which both incrementally expanded.
“There ended up being a nice tie-in between IGTC and Blancpain Asia with Mercedes and co-drivers,” she said.
“On one side that came together and then in IMSA, I’m of course super grateful for Heinricher Racing and Caterpillar and Meyer Shank Racing for giving me the opportunity in that.
“That program also grew in the number of races I’ve done. By the time we talked abut VIR, unfortunately I had committed here and Bia also had commitments. So that’s why Alice Powell could step in instead.
“It’s been a lot more than I thought but I’ve really enjoyed it. The traveling has been a bit much but it’s been a great experience.”