Overwhelming, demanding and incredibly fast – this is Christina Nielsen’s world. She is only 24, but this young Dane has already written a page in motorsport history by winning the prestigious IMSA championship in the GT-Daytona class at the wheel of a Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3.
The Official Ferrari Magazine: You won by opting to drive for the first three of the 10 hours of the race, to be sure of success even if the car had to be retired. How did you feel when third driver Jeff Segal took over and you realised you’d made it?
Christina Nielsen: I drove for 188 minutes in very hot weather conditions. When they asked me to come in to hand the car over to Jeff I kept asking over the radio, ‘Did I do the three hours? Did I drive for three hours? Did I really do it?’ When I got out I lay down on the pit wall. It was a mixed feeling: I was about to faint with the heat, but I had butterflies in my stomach with joy too. Alessandro Balzan, winner of the title with me, ran over to give me a hug and I realised that we’d really made it. Then I remember being saved by a slice of cool watermelon, just the hydration I needed!
TOFM: You drove the 488 GT3 to a class win in its first race, the 12 Hours of Sebring. Love at first sight, then.
CN: Very true. I love my Ferrari, it’s a fantastic car. If I had to choose a word that sums up Ferrari and the people who work at Maranello and Scuderia Corsa, I would say ‘quality’.
TOFM: What’s your philosophy on life?
CN: I believe that life should be taken full on and that you have to give it your all to achieve your goals. I’m stubborn; if I get something in my head, it’s not easy to change my mind.
TOFM: You’re not only a driver…
CN: I’m enrolled at the University of Hørsholm and take part in the programme for students who do sport at high level, as it allows more time to finish your degree course. Racing is my main interest, but I’m also studying marketing as it may be useful when I stop competing. I’d like to stay in the area, possibly working for a car manufacturer. My to-do list also includes learning Italian, but it’s such a difficult language.
TOFM: What’s your life like away from the track?
CN: I’ve learned to appreciate my time at home. I prefer to spend time with a couple of good friends, a good bottle of wine and a takeaway, maybe sushi, my favourite. I’m a bit boring food-wise: salmon, salad and not much else. My friends deal with the food now, they couldn’t stand my bad cooking any longer.
TOFM: Are you inspired by anyone?
CN: Tom Kristensen, the Dane who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times, a real authority on endurance. Then there’s David Beckham. He was a great footballer, but also an extraordinary endorser and communicator. Succeeding in being so versatile appeals to me.
TOFM: There’s also your father, Lars-Erik, a former racing driver who follows you to all the races…
CN: He believes in me a lot and is supporting my dream.
TOFM: Now you can finally get your breath back.
CN: I’ll take a few days off, but no more because I have to study. I’d like to ask Giacomo [Mattioli, Scuderia Corsa owner] to lend me a Ferrari California T to travel around the States roof-down with no particular place to go. It’s a fantastic car. If I had to choose though, I wouldn’t hesitate: the 488 Spider, Blu Corsa colour, the best Ferrari around in my opinion, after my GT3…