BIO:Mark has a successful motor racing background. He began racing karts at 8 years old, and refined his skills over the years to become one of the top Rally drivers in the U.S. in SCCA Pro Rally. He more recently translated that experience into Sports Car racing.
In Karting, Mark has several series championships behind him including a third place finish in the 1989 IKF & Pro American Shifter Series (PASS) national championships in Junior II. He was the WKF Junior II southwest champion from 1989-1992.
Mark took on the SCCA Pro Rally Championship starting in 2000 and finished 4th in the Group N championship in his rookie season. In 2001, Mark campaigned a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI in the top Open Class and placed 5th in the championship in the mix with 3 manufacturer teams (Subaru, Mitsubishi and Hyundai). He scored his first overall podium success at the penultimate round of the US Championship, the Prescott Forest Rally, where he finished in 3rd overall and dominated the final leg of the rally by winning all but one stage, against 3 factory teams. Of all the young talent in the 2001 series, including his Subaru Rally Team USA teammates, U.S. Champion and former British Champion Mark Lovell singled Nelson out for praise as the driver with the best future (Sport Compact Car, April 2002).
In 2002, Mark emerged as the top American driver in the SCCA Pro Rally Championship ahead of 3 professional factory drivers and finished the season 4th in the championship (with missing 2 events). The season ended well as Mark drove an AV Sport (2002 SCCA Pro Rally Champions) prepared Prodrive Subaru WRX-STi to his first major victory in the FIA Ramada Express International Rally.
Mark’s successes in 2002 received considerable notice among factory and private teams, including an opportunity to drive for Subaru Italy in the Italian Gravel Championship. After his success on the 2002 FIA Ramada Express International Rally, with 2002 SCCA Pro Rally Champions AV Sport, he signed up to drive AV Sport’s new Open Class Subaru WRX-STi following the departure of 2002 champion David Higgins (and current Subaru Rally Team USA Driver) to the Mitsubishi factory team. Unfortunately, budget problems for the team forced them to discontinue their championship program after one event, leaving Nelson without a drive.
Despite this setback, Nelson took part in a one-off drive at the Oregon Trail ProRally with Tato Motorsports in their ex-WRC Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI. With minimal testing time and limited resources, Nelson not only won the Group N classification from stiff competition by over 2 minutes, but also placed 4th overall to two factory-effort Open Class Mitsubishis and the Air Force Reserve backed Open Class Ford Focus. Considering Nelson’s Group N car did not have the luxury of Open Class rules, including a 130hp deficit with a 32mm restrictor, makes his result all the more impressive. This impressive finish culminated in a drive for Prodrive in the final 2 rounds of the SCCA championship, competing in a full International specification Group N Subaru Impreza WRX-STi. Following the end of the 2004 season, Mark stepped away from motorsports to focus on his career in the Technology industry.
In 2013, Mark decided it was time to get involved in motorsports again, but diverging from rallying, by going road racing. Having known Kevin and Debra Buckler at The Racer’s Group since 1999, Mark approached them regarding competing in one of the Porsche GT3 Cup series. They decided on the west coast based Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy run by Competent Motorsport as a good testing point.
Mark wanted to ensure he would be reasonably competitive before moving to a faster class, so acquired an older Gold Class 997.1 GT3 Cup. He competed in 3 events and 7 races at the end of the season, taking his first podium and first win in just his 3rd event, dominating the final race.
In 2014, Mark stepped up to a second generation Platinum 997.2 GT3 Cup and campaigned just 4 events due to business commitments, taking a couple of podiums along the way.
Finally, in 2015, Mark contested 6 of the 7 rounds of the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy (missing one round when his daughter was born) taking 5 wins and 8 podiums in 12 races, often beating many of the Diamond 991 GT3 Cups including having the fastest overall race lap at the final race at Sonoma. Mark has remained with TRG since 2013.
Outside of his driving duties, Mark is an Engineering Executive in the software industry with salesforce.com. Mark is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and lives with his wife Kristin and daughter, Anna. He also actively competes in Mountain Bike and Road Bike racing and is USA Cycling licensed in both categories.
In addition, Mark has provided tuition for several rally drivers and helped bring two co-drivers to the top WRC ranks including Alex Gelsomino, who navigates for Ken Block, and Christian Edstrom, who navigates for Travis Pastrana.