Nielsen, Balzan Clinch GTD Title

Christina Nielsen in Scuderia Corsa Ferrari at Belle Isle IMSA race
Photo: Zach Wenzel

Danish driver Christina Nielsen and her Scuderia Corsa co-driver Alessandro Balzan clinched the 2016 GT Daytona title during the first half of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s season-ending Petit Le Mans race.

Nielsen, at age 24, became the first female champion in the history of professional sports car racing in North America by completing her minimum drive time during the opening three hours of the 10-hour race on Saturday at Road Atlanta.

The duo of the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 entered the weekend with a 32-point lead in the GTD class, which made clinching the title before the checkers an easy task.

“This just shows what the team has been doing all year,” Nielsen said after her three-hour, eight-minute stint. “It’s a pleasure to be a part of; they just do so much right and so little wrong.”

Driving an Aston Martin for TRG-AMR, Nielsen nearly captured the GTD title last year but fell short by just two points to, ironically, Scuderia Corsa, after earning a career-best five podiums. In 2014, she ended the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA season sixth in the standings.

Nielsen, who started racing karts at age 13, hails from a family with a strong racing background as her father, Lars Erik Nielsen, competed in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rolex 24 at Daytona.

As the first female from Denmark to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nielsen received the Colding Cup from the Danish Automobile Sports Union for her success in motorsports and credit to her home country just last week.

“To call ourselves champions this early is unbelievable, but we’ve still got an endurance championship to go for so, game on.”

At the race’s halfway mark, the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari ran third in the GTD class at the hands of the team’s endurance driver Jeff Segal.