IMSA GTD co-leader Christina Nielsen looking forward to Le Mans debut

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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This has been a season of firsts for Christina Nielsen.

In March, she won her first career IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, capturing GTD class honors in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Now, the 24-year-old Nielsen will make her first appearance this weekend in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, joining fellow Denmark countrymen Johnny Laursen and Mikkel Mac Jensen in the No. 60 Formula Racing Ferrari F458 Italia.

“In some ways, Sebring is similar to Le Mans because endurance racing is endurance racing,” Nielsen said in a media release. “You’ve always got to take care of the car, give it to the co-driver in the condition that you would like to receive it yourself, and you’ve got to consider that the battle is not fought in the fourth or sixth or eighth hours.

“But the rules are a little bit different for Le Mans. The rules regarding safety zones and safety cars are different, so it is a little bit of a different approach. But we’re going to give it our all.”

Nielsen is coming off a third-place finish at Detroit in the IMSA event there nearly two weeks ago, which helped increase the lead she and co-driver Alessandro Balzan have in the IMSA GTD point standings to eight points over Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas.

Nielsen just barely missed winning the GTD championship last season. She feels that a good run at Le Mans will only help enhance her chances to finally win that elusive crown this year.

“Le Mans has been on the list for a couple of years now,” Nielsen said. “It’s something every driver dreams of doing. I can’t thank Formula Racing enough for giving me this opportunity. I can’t wait to give it a shot.

“It’s going to be my first [Le Mans] 24 Hours. I’ve been to the track last year at the Aston Martin Racing Festival, but this is the first time there in the Ferrari with Mikkel (Mac Jensen) and Johnny (Laursen).”

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III