Christina Nielsen and Katherine Legge are delighted to be back in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock fulltime, but it doesn’t stop there. They both want to succeed again – this time together.
Nielsen is a two-time GT Daytona champion; Legge was the 2018 GTD runner-up. Each has four career wins, but none as teammates when they drove together in 2019. They have reunited in the No. 88 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3R for the rest of the 2021 GTD season after sharing the car with team owners Rob Ferriol and Earl Bamber in the Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the season.
“We are just super grateful to be here and trying to build,” Legge said. “It’s a bit of a last-minute deal, just trying to build something meaningful with Hardpoint EBM, trying to scramble and put everything together.”
The COVID-19 pandemic derailed 2020 plans for many drivers, including Legge and Nielsen. Then, Legge sustained a broken leg and wrist in a serious LMP2 crash in the European Le Mans Series. While Legge put all her pieces back together physically, she and Nielsen kept working to put together a racing package for 2021.
With the aid of sponsors Richard Mille and Champion Porsche, they’ve done it.
“It’s something that Kat and I have consciously worked towards since the season fell apart last year,” said Nielsen, the 2016 and ’17 GTD champ. “So, it’s absolutely a very important target, if not the target, to hit. Next is to do well. But, to be back for the full season is something that we aimed for.
“We love being a part of IMSA, we love the tracks that we get to race in IMSA, we love the format. To be here with Champion and Richard Mille is an absolutely major deal for us, and we’re really enjoying it.”
Enjoying it, yes, but they’re also realistic. The Porsche is a much different car to drive than the Acura and Ferrari they won in before. Nielsen qualified the No. 88 in 10th place among the 13 GTD entries for race grid position on Friday, while Legge ran 12th in the points qualifying session. Bia Figueiredo, part of the Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank team with Legge and Nielsen in 2019, rejoins them as the third driver this weekend.
Legge admitted that a sixth-place class finish in the race would be like a victory.
“Top six is achievable, I think,” she said. “But if we can execute without making any mistakes, we’re all relatively fast and we’ve got the other car (the No. 99 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche with drivers Ferriol, Bamber and Trenton Estep) as a yardstick – if, for example, I can look at Earl’s data, and if I’m within a couple of tenths of him, my out laps are just as good and my traffic management is and everything – then even if we finished 10th, I would see that as a personal victory because of all of his experience.
“So, it’s lots of little goals within the big goal of obviously winning the race. And we’d be lying if we said that we didn’t dream about that, too.”