Nielsen: All-female MSR lineup gets "respect it deserves"
Meyer Shank Racing's all-female lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona has been getting the "respect it deserves", according to two-time IMSA GT Daytona champion Christina Nielsen.
Nielsen was a late addition to the lineup in the #57 Acura NSX GT3 for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar curtain-raiser, as she replaced Jackie Heinricher - who is due to contest the full season along with Katherine Legge but was ruled out of the Daytona race by a back injury.
Former IndyCar racers Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz complete the four-strong driving squad for the car, which qualified 11th on the GTD class grid on Thursday in the hands of Beatriz.
Nielsen admitted being part of an all-female team had created more media attention in the run-up to this year's race, but emphasised that she and her co-drivers have the necessary credentials to live up to the hype.
"I’m a little bit used to [the attention] because of the [GTD] championships and stuff," she said. "It’s definitely taking it up a notch this year, but in a good way.
"I feel like it’s in a good way because Jackie [Heinricher], [primary sponsor] Caterpillar and Meyer Shank Racing have put together a really good programme with respected, talented drivers with CVs that speak for them.
"It would have been worse if it was seen as a gimmick because the women didn’t have the results, but we’ve all proven ourselves in different categories and I feel like this is why this lineup gets the respect it deserves.
"We actually have CVs to back us up. We’re not just [saying], ‘We’re female drivers, what a tough world’."
Nielsen has only had limited running in the #57 Acura so far this weekend owing to illness that ruled her out of action on Thursday, although she has since recovered.
"I haven’t driven that much," she admitted. "I didn’t drive [on Thursday] because I got a bit sick, so I did my first eight laps [Friday] morning [in final practice]."
On her expectations for the race, the Dane added: "We hope for the win. No team ever aims to be second, but I just want to take it hour-by-hour because it is 24 hours."
Nielsen says she has no plans to race in IMSA in 2019 beyond this weekend, having lost her full-time ride with Wright Motorsports disappearing off the GTD grid for this year.
However, she will contest the Bathurst 12 Hours next weekend with the Black Falcon Mercedes squad and suggested she could seek opportunities to race GT3 machinery in other parts of the world after that.
"I’m just grateful for the opportunity to race at Daytona," Nielsen said. "I’m racing at Bathurst next weekend, that will be very cool, I’m looking forward to that.
"[Beyond that] I’m open to any opportunity I can get."
#57 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3, GTD: Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz, Simona De Silvestro, Christina Nielsen
Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images
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