Christina Nielsen: Racing for Equality

by Jean-Paul Hackett

In the second part of our article about double IMSA Sports Car Champion Christina Nielsen, we asked her what it takes to be a woman in such a male-dominated sport.

Motorsport has traditionally been a male pursuit. When asked why Nielsen thinks this is, she told us, “I don’t know, because it’s naturally going to be dominated by men forever, not because women can’t, just because there is a bigger interest with cars and motorsport among men.”

Nielsen reflected on what it means to be at Le Mans, “I look at the wall here for example and I’m one of the drivers on it and there’s not that many on it, so I’m definitely looking at them and thinking wow, a lot of these guys have much better results than I do, which is what I want to base things on, I want to be known for my achievements in the end.”

She added, “I’m still happy that I am up there (on the wall), hoping that the results will come to match it of course; also because I think it’s important for everyone around who’s watching Le Mans or randomly seeing it on TV, or actually being here and the little daughters seeing it with their families that they get to see that women can also be here and be drivers if they want.”

Her father, Lars-Erik Nielsen, himself a podium finisher at Le Mans, undoubtedly influenced a young Christina to take up the sport herself.

Nielsen became the first female driver to win an IMSA WeatherTech Championship, reinforcing that accomplishment by defending her title the following year. The Dane is not alone when it comes to achieving greatness in motorsport as a female driver.

Danica Patrick is the most successful woman in the history of open wheeled motor racing, winning the 2008 Indy 300 Japan and is the only woman to have ever won an Indy-Car Series race. Throughout her career she faced criticism about her place in the sport, much of it coming from some of the biggest names in US motor racing.

French rally star Michèle Mouton won three world championship rallies in 1982, finishing runner-up for the title (behind Walter Röhrl). She won 162 stages in WRC and went on to win Pikes Peak in 1984 and 1985 and the German Rally Championship in 1986. A motorsport hero.

Known as The First Lady of Racing, Denise Mcluggage fought for gender equality in motorsport, as well as in journalism and earned her male rivals’ respect with wins in numerous sports cars and a class win at the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.

“I feel like I am a strong representative for equality between men and women because of the two championships in America now, I can probably say I believe in these things and have the results and the data to prove it said Nielsen. “I don’t try to encourage more women into motorsport with what I’m doing with the PR appearances or the school visits or the events I do to promote what we do; I do it more to create awareness, I want everyone to know, especially the women but also the men.”

Nielsen supports Dansk Kvindesamfund (The Danish Women’s Society) with whom she shares values and their work to create equal status for women both culturally and individually. Nielsen concluded, “I want them to know that women belong in this world if they want to be there, they might have to fight a little bit harder if they want to do it, but the door is open if they want to be here.”

What it boils down to is that we, collectively, men and women, need to do more about gender equality. We need to pave the way for our daughters, just as we do our sons. There should be no disparity in sports, nor in the workplace, nor in life. Women and men should be seen and treated as equals in all respects. Nielsen lets her driving do the talking.

Credit: Porsche Motorsport

Following this interview, Nielsen and her Ebimotors squad took to the track for the final two qualifying sessions. The #80 car managed to find some speed during the last qualifying session by setting the seventh fastest time in class with a 3m53.402 lap.

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