Girl Racer Christina Nielsen
Danish racing driver, Chrstina Nielsen, is about to make history at just 21 years of age. The gorgeous blonde bombshell is the first female driver to race in Doha’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge. Chatting to the petite superstar, we find out how she deals with being part of such a male-dominated sport, plus she tells us what it’s like to take on the boys... and win!
The general perception is that motor racing is something that only appeals to men. Why, and how, did you end up racing cars?
The first time I started racing, it wasn’t something I had planned to do. I went for a drive in a rental go-kart with a friend, and simply fell in love with racing. The adrenaline buzz it gave me made me realise what a competitive person I am. My dad has had a very successful career in motorsports. and so has been very supportive right from the beginning. I drove go-karts for four years, which was the perfect grounding for me. When I turned 18, I decided to move into cars. I drove other cars for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until I sat in a Porsche that I knew where I really belonged. Last year I drove in the Porsche Carrera Cup, which is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, brand-class you can drive in the world.
You’re making history in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East as the first female driver to ever race in the series – how does that feel?
It feels amazing. People like to make history and break records for the right reasons, and I feel privileged that I am the first female driver to race in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. But, when I am on the track, I look at myself as a driver first and foremost – I’m driving with the same track conditions as the guys, and am also driving the same car. I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do the same as the boys. The truth is, it’s a level playing field for everyone.
Is it hard being part of what is seen as such a male-dominated sport?
At the beginning of my career it was difficult, even more so than it is now, as the spotlight was on me. But, as with all the drivers, you have to make an impact and create a legacy in the sport. Yes, I am one of a handful of drivers in the world to enter a predominantly male sport, but it’s important to show the rest of the world that I can compete at the highest level and eliminate the gender aspect. Women are becoming more interested in motorsports, especially in Europe and America. And, hopefully female interest in the sport will grow in the Middle East too – all they need is encouragement and the chance to compete.
You’ve clearly got the determination and skill to beat all those blokes at their own game. Are the guys on the circuit intimidated by you, or do they treat you as one of the lads?
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is the most professional championship in the region. There is a fantastic sense of professionalism around the series. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms, from the manager of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, Walter Lechner, to the drivers and engineers. Not once have I felt out of place. Yes, we have a competitive edge when we are on the track – we have the determination to beat each other. But, once we take our helmets off, we are friends. I have a laugh and a joke with everyone and they definitely treat me as one of the lads.
Do the men take you seriously?
Yes, they do. They know I am a strong candidate and they have taken me seriously throughout the season. I’ve competed in the Porsche Carrera Cup in Europe and have been challenging for podium positions throughout the season, and am also fighting for the Silver Michelin Category. People do see motor racing as a male sport, but once you’re in the circle, and everyone knows what you are capable of, they do take you seriously – they have to, because if they don’t, they’ll certainly be in for a real surprise.
Is it as glamorous as everyone thinks?
It’s a lot of hard work! You have to dedicate a lot of time to the gym, and to being on the track, in order to succeed in the sport. Racing is my hobby, it’s my ambition, and I am living my dream.
You must travel a lot, is it hard on your family?
It’s hard because sometimes I’m away for a couple of weeks at each race meeting. But, they’re very supportive of me – they know racing is my absolute passion.
What’s your favourite circuit in the world?
The Circuit de Spa, Francorchamps, in Belgium. It’s one of the most challenging race tracks in the world, mainly due to its fast, hilly and twisty nature.
How do you find Doha’s Lusail International Circuit compared to others you’ve raced on?
I really like it – it’s very good for the Porsche. Initially, it was designed for motorbikes, and you can see that by the structure of the track. It’s very fast, with nice long straights and very friendly corners.
Describe how you feel when you’re racing?
I make sure I’m comfortable with the situation before a race. The night before, I prepare myself mentally on how I want the race to go to give myself a confidence boost. My engineer is also a calming influence, and tells me what I need to focus on. The adrenaline always rushes through my body when I’m racing – I need to be totally focused, because even a small mistake can affect everything. I need to focus on the right things, have my mind in the right place and avoid any unpleasant emotions that could set me off balance before a race