With just three races remaining in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, few would have pegged Christina Nielsen as the GT Daytona championship leader at this stage.
Yes, that would include Nielsen herself.
But the 23-year-old Dane has starred in her first full season with TRG-AMR North America, and by way of consistency and continuously improving pace she finds herself in this spot.
“Going into the season I didn’t think that would be the case!” Nielsen told Sportscar365. “To be in this position with TRG-AMR is just amazing. The team has done a great effort.
“I was very happy I did the four long distance races last year and now gone into a full season. I felt it was a great way to do it, get familiar with the series, but I didn’t think I’d be leading the championship at this point.”
Indeed Nielsen has already overcome a couple changes in her brief TUDOR career. She did a handful of races last year with NGT Motorsport, her Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA team, but shifted to TRG-AMR prior to Petit Le Mans.
Then there was the midseason shift where Kuno Wittmer replaced James Davison alongside in the No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 prior to Watkins Glen.
Since Wittmer’s arrival, the new pair has scored two straight podiums (third at Lime Rock and second at Road America) in three starts.
With Wittmer also more available than Davison was, given Davison’s World Challenge commitments this year, it’s allowed Nielsen to take the next step in her development.
“Kuno is the whole package basically,” Nielsen said. “He’s such a talented driver obviously, having won the GTLM title.
“But he’s really quick at adjusting. He’s good at feedback and setup. We’ve already found we want the car to act and react the same way.
“Then he’s very good with the sponsors and coaching. I feel we’ve already built a good friendship and partnership, as he’s a great supporter in so many ways.”
Two areas of concern, perhaps, for Nielsen heading into the final few races of the year is that neither she nor the rest of the top four driver lineups have won a race yet this year, and that the Aston Martin was given a 1.0 mm air restrictor reduction and 250 less RPM.
Nielsen said she and the team are still going for it in spite of those items.
“I kind of feel we got a balance of results hit, more than balance of performance,” she said. “The Porsche was three tenths faster in the fastest lap, so I was surprised they took as much from us and Viper.
“But we’re still going to fight just as hard. As you’ve seen it’s about strategy and pit stops, and who gambles at the right time. We still have a good car, good lineup… I’m not gonna back down because a bit of BoP. We’ll still be pushing to be up there.”
She also said it doesn’t matter if she does win the title without winning a race.
“It wouldn’t be fun to win the championship without a win,” Nielsen said. “Thing is, we could have won but we’ve had some bad luck. People have seen that.
“I still hope and believe we have a victory in us as well. It’s not race victories that win the championship; it’s consistency. If I become the champion of the series, it’s not gonna be viewed differently for not having a couple of wins.”
Nielsen viewed Sebring as her standout drive this season, along with Monterey where she and Patrick Lindsey controlled the opening stint of the race in GTD.
“Driving more than three hours at Sebring, and always in battles, that was so rewarding and challenging,” Nielsen said.
“I went out and was fighting with pros and Silvers, throughout three stints, and it was so tough with the heat. To bring the car in and give it, and put it a competitive position felt super good.”
Nielsen and Wittmer enter VIR on the strength of a successful test day last month at the track, feeling confident in their setup.
She currently leads the Paul Miller Racing pair of Christopher Haase and Dion von Moltke by two points, with the Scuderia Corsa and WeatherTech Alex Job pairs also within striking distance (seven and eight points back).