Nielsen Motivates Detroit Students with Positive Message in Preview Event for Chevrolet Sports Car Classic
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD champion Christina Nielsen didn’t shy away from handing out some solid advice to a group of students at the Detroit International Academy for Young Women in the Motor City on Wednesday.

When the Porsche driver asked the class assembled if anyone had discouraged or made fun of them for taking on a challenge, one eighth-grader said she was told by a male friend not to rap, dance or sing. 

Another told Nielsen, who was born in Denmark and has been racing in America the past four years, she was warned by people she was too fragile as a girl to take karate classes. 

“You go rap – you take karate,” Nielsen shot back. “Give it your best.” 

When the girls replied they had, Nielsen, who is driving the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Wright Motorsports this season, pumped her fist.

“Good on you,” she said loudly from the stage. “You showed them.”

Nielsen, 26, was in Detroit to promote the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on Belle Isle June 1-3. She will share the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with Patrick Long in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on Saturday, June 2.

Nielsen was on hand at the academy to talk to students about what motivated her to go racing and to watch a demonstration by the school’s 10-person robotics team, known as “The Pink Panthers,” and their creation, “Ms. Packwoman,” a robot they built last year. She was accompanied by Detroit GP chairman Bud Denker and Comerica Bank senior vice president Monica Martinez.

As in past years, Comerica will sponsor Free Prix Day on Friday, June 1, on Belle Isle with all fans admitted free to the island and the racing, which will include IndyCar and other series in addition to the WeatherTech Championship.

Nielsen and her team will host academy students in the paddock and garage area on Friday on Belle Isle and offer them a first-hand look at the science of racing and encourage them to take an interest in STEM and a career in the automotive and/or racing industries.

“I’m here to create awareness of the Detroit Grand Prix, but to also tell young women they can work, compete and be part of anything they want to be against men without having to believe otherwise because of gender,” said Nielsen, who moved from the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari she drove to the past two titles to the No. 58 Porsche this season. “At Belle Isle, they will get to see the different types of jobs available to women in motorsports, not only driving but as engineers, mechanics, data engineers and jobs in marketing and PR. I’m happy to show that none of them should be determined just by gender.”

While Nielsen’s father, Lars-Erik Nielsen, raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 2000s, Nielsen said she decided to go racing after a visit to a local go-kart track when she was around 13. 

“Dad didn’t really introduce me to racing, though he has been a great supporter since,” said Nielsen. “I just went to a random kart rental track and absolutely fell in love with karting. It was the greatest feeling in the world.”                   

Nielsen started racing soon after and found out quickly she would have to earn her stripes against the boys.

“I did, of course, feel the pressure of being a girl and later a woman in racing,” said Nielsen, who recently completed a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management communication. “I had plenty of boys who came up to me and make excuses why I won the two championships in the last two years. I don’t need any excuses. I won them, period.”

Asked by a student if she thought of herself as a role model in motorsports, particularly for young women, Nielsen paused a moment.

“I don’t think of myself as that,” said Nielsen. “I’m not yet 100 percent in my career to where I want to be, and I think role model can be overused. But I am aware that I want to set a good example. I know my values and what I stand for and my social media very much represents that.”

Nielsen said she does not want to be known as a woman racer, but a racer who is a woman.

Danica Patrick said much the same in her career, which began in karts and later moved to Indy cars and NASCAR.

“She has definitely contributed a lot in racing,” said Nielsen of Patrick, who will retire after this year’s Indianapolis 500 in May. “Danica is it – the one everyone knows … that’s the beauty of it. We needed to create awareness of women in racing, and Danica did.

“What I like to do is share my experience, my knowledge with young people. If girls get interested in racing, well, great; there is at least a way they can do it. It is possible. Danica was part of an awareness. Women belong in racing and can race on equal terms with men. I hope Danica does well in the Indy 500.”   

Nielsen said she was eager to get to Belle Isle in the Porsche in June.

“I love the track,” she said. “It’s bumpy and demanding. It’s a racer’s circuit. You must qualify well there. I enjoy the challenge.”