Wright Motorsports has wrapped up another extremely dynamic IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship weekend. The Porsche team reached as high as first place in the GTD class during the two-hour, 40-minute Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, but for Christina Nielsen and Pat Long, achieving their third podium finish in a row was not in the cards this time. The No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital Porsche 911 GT3 R raced hard and dealt with fuel and tire issues in addition to navigating multiple full-course cautions before it crossed the finish line in 11th place.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is historically a successful venue for Nielsen. The two-time defending GTD champion considers this a home race, and her record includes a win here last year and a second place finish in 2016. Her co-driver Long has five wins here, an IMSA record. However, their combined expertise, along with Wright Motorsports’ long history of success with Porsche, was not enough to secure another podium finish.
“Today was definitely not an easy day,” Nielsen said after the race. “We dealt with tire degradation, and fuel management was also one of the key factors to doing well. We took a chance, and it didn’t pay off exactly as we had planned.”
The opening laps of the race were marred by multiple wrecks within the IMSA classes, leading to full-course yellow caution periods, but Long was able to avoid any incidents during his opening stint in the No. 58. When he delivered the car to the pit lane for the driver change first in class, Nielsen had her work cut out for her from then on. Trouble with the car’s door during the pit stop caused her to enter the race in 10th. However, she skillfully wove through traffic from multiple classes on the 11-turn road course, working her way up to fourth place.
As the race wore on, so did her tires. The team’s fuel strategy also did not play out the way they had hoped, and she soon lost her top-five position. Her race position dropped to 11th by the time the checkered flag waved.
“It was hard with those tires,” Nielsen said. “A normal stint is 22, 23 laps, and I did 53 laps on mine. They were definitely overused.
“This is a weekend to put behind us. The strategy was a team effort, something we tried to do together. We took a chance, and unfortunately, it didn’t pay off — but that’s racing sometimes.”
Though the result was not what she had hoped for, Nielsen did create professional bright spots throughout the race. Normally, she qualifies the car and starts the race each weekend. For the first time this season, she drove the car to the finish. This was also one of her longest stints with Wright Motorsports and the No. 58 Porsche, giving her even more valuable race experience.
Nielsen’s next race is the Motul Petit Le Mans, the IMSA regular season finale. The event weekend for the 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta starts on October 11, and the race is on October 13.
Source. Christina Nielsen/Photo. Ignite Media