Nielsen, Straus and Legge team up for GT4 America program
IMSA veterans Christina Nielsen and Katherine Legge will team up with Aurora Straus to form the first ever fully-female lineup in SRO's GT4 America, in a Richard Mille supported program.
It always feels special to report about a new all-female team entering a championship and, luckily, it's has been a growing trend in the past few years.
In 2021, a new women-only crew will make its debut on the grid of Pirelli GT4 America and the drivers' names are among the highest-ranked in motorsport: 2-times IMSA champion Christina Nielsen - the first ever title-winning woman in North American motorsport - will team up with Katherine Legge - a driver whose resumé needs no introduction and with 22-year old American racer Aurora Straus behind the wheel of the #43 Porsche 718 GT4 in the SRO-sanctioned GT4 championship.
The operation will be run by Murillo Racing and will be supported by luxury watchmaker Richard Mille, as well as Arch Capital Group, Supergoop! and Sabelt.
Straus, a full-time Harvard University student and also involved in the music industry, has been recently competing in GT4 machinery: while still in high school, she made her competitive racing debut in the Mazda MX5 Cup, before stepping up to the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2017. In 2018, Aurora entered the Pirelli World Challenge, where she claimed two victories and four podiums, ultimately finishing runner up in the championship.
In the last two years, Straus raced in the opening race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona.
Heavily invested in gender equality programs in motorsport, Straus founded "Girls With Drive", an initiative that aims at mentoring and inspiring young girls to pursue careers in the automotive industry.
“I’m delighted to be competing in SRO with Christina and Kat", said the young American driver. "I grew up watching them race, at a time when I was routinely the only girl at the racetrack. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it, and their success was a huge factor in my decision to race. I’m incredibly grateful that our goals align, and that we have genuine partners in Murillo Racing, Richard Mille, and others who also believe in our mission to inspire young women in motorsport", she added.
“Anyone who has met Christina and Kat knows that they are fierce competitors and also fierce partners. We describe ourselves as three women, no limits for a reason: our belief that women are stronger together. We hope this program inspires future female racers just like Christina and Kat inspired me.”
Nielsen became the first ever female IMSA champion in 2016 and managed to repeat her title-campaign one year later. She has then competed in other female-only teams – joining forces with Katherine Legge and Bia Figueiredo in 2019 (Heinricher Racing) and with Legge, Rahel Frey and Tatiana Calderon in the 2020 Daytona 24 hour race, in what would become GEAR Racing's only race event before the project encountered financial issues.
Forced to take a year off in 2020, the Danish star returned to the racetrack in January 2021, when she joined Legge, Earl Bamber and Rob Ferriol at the wheel of the #88 Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3 GTD that would secure a top-10 finish in the Daytona endurance classic.
Just like Straus, Nielsen is also at the forefront of the women in motorsport movement: she is in fact the founder of Accelerating Change, which runs track days across the US especially tailored for women enthusiasts.
“I am excited to be joining Aurora in the Porsche GT4 in SRO America for 2021!" - said Nielsen. "We have brought together a team that will present a strong united front within the racing community to show diversity in the sport”, she continued.
“This vision for equality is shared by partners like Richard Mille, and I am grateful to join another program that the company is supporting.”
Richard Mille – also chairman of the FIA Endurance commission – has a proven record of pushing for gender equality within the sport and has been sponsoring programs with female drivers as well as creating the first ever all-women LMP2 project. With Sophia Floersch, Tatiana Calderon and Beitske Visser on the driving seat of the Oreca 07 prototype, Richard Mille Racing secured a top-10 finish in its rookie effort at the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours.
While Straus and Nielsen will fly the banner of the Murillo Racing team in GT4 America for most of the races, they will rely on the expertise and mentoring of motorsport ace Katherine Legge. A household name in Formula 3, Indycar, DTM, Formula E, prototype cars, IMSA – and with F1 testing experience – the British driver is the perfect profile to turn the operation into a successful one.
"Richard Mille has been championing women drivers for a while now, and it’s through their iconic brand that we can create a force to be reckoned with in North America,” Katherine said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the RM crew will achieve with Murillo Racing, and I will be standing with them every step of the way.”
With a 7-event calendar set to kick off next week in Sonoma, the Pirelli GT4 America championship will see the teams and drivers battling on some of the most spectacular and iconic US racetracks: from the Californian venue, the series will in fact move to the home of the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, Mosport, VIRginia Raceway, Road America, Watkins Glen. The season finale – contested in conjunction with the Intercontinental GT Challenge – will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.