Christina Nielsen hopes to steer everyone to a different narrative regarding herself and her peers.
“I don’t support the concept where a female driver is picked for their PR value,” said Nielsen, a 23-year-old Dane who will be racing this weekend at Circuit of the Americas. “It shouldn’t be because they’re good for social media. Drivers, of both genders, need to be recognized for their talent. They need to fulfill the whole package.”Heading into Lone Star Le Mans at COTA, Nielsen has lived up to her own expectations. Competing in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship series, she leads the GT Daytona points standings with two races to go in the 2015 season. Since the International Motor Sports Association first sanctioned a race in 1969, no woman driver has won an IMSA championship. “I think about winning it every day,” Nielsen said. “Not as a female driver, but just because I’m a competitor. Winning means everything; that’s why we race. “But I do see the advantages,” she added. “It would hopefully create more awareness with sponsors and fans, and people would look and see there are some women drivers with real talent.” Ashley Freiberg hopes to make the same point in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, one of the support races this weekend at COTA, where she and co-driver Trent Hindman will start eighth in the season standings. “There are more women racing now and doing well,” Freiberg said. “Growing up, I was usually the only girl on the track. It was a bit like football. You can enjoy and watch it as a girl, but it’s not that well-known (that) you can really participate in it.” Freiberg and Nielsen both began racing go-karts as teenagers. Freiberg was a 13-year-old when she first sat in a go-kart and “fell in love,” while Nielsen grew up playing tennis before she stumbled onto racing. “I was 14 and tried a go-kart with a friend,” Nielsen said. “After that, I knew what I wanted to do.” Nielsen had a capable guide into the racing world. Her father, Lars Erik Nielsen, also was an endurance racer, and he last competed in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2008, when he was 55. “He never pushed racing on me or anything,” Nielsen said, “but after I had an interest in it, he would talk to me about it and really has been an asset in helping me get better.” Freiberg didn’t have a family background in racing, but like Nielsen she picked endurance racing because of the strategy and co-driver camaraderie that’s part of it. At Lone Star Le Mans, the Tudor United SportsCar Championship races will last 2 hours and 45 minutes, while the headlining FIA World Endurance Challenge is a six-hour event. “It stands out to me as the most difficult form of racing,” Freiberg said. “It’s not who can be the fastest for a lap or even a couple laps. It’s who can be the most consistent for a long period of time, and that really tests a driver.” By Sean Shapiro - American-Statesman correspondent