A crash three stages into Saturday’s second leg of Rally New Zealand ended Emma Gilmour’s bid for a top result, but the Vantage Team Subaru driver still managed to re-start and claim fastest Kiwi honours through three of Sunday’s six stages.

On one of those stages Gilmour was also the second-fastest Production Class driver, just behind former Production Class world champion Toshi Arai. That effort, along with her strong performances through several other stages, lifted Gilmour and co-driver Chris Cobham from 27th at the start of the final day to 24th at the rally finish.

“Setting those times definitely made re-starting this morning worthwhile,” said Gilmour. “I’m really happy, not just for myself, but also for the rest of the team: the guys at Possum Bourne Motor Sport were working on the car until 10.30pm on Saturday night to fix it, and were up again at 5.00am this morning. It is great to be able to repay their efforts by being on the pace”.

Gilmour herself required the attention of physiotherapist both before the start of Sunday’s stages and at the service break halfway through the day, as Saturday’s accident left both her and co-driver Chris Cobham a little the worse for wear.

The accident came on the rally’s eighth stage, just as Gilmour – at that point 17th overall - seemed poised to take second place in the race for first Kiwi honours from Rotorua driver Dean Sumner.

“Everything locked up over a slippery rock base, and we slammed right into a clay bank,” said the 26 year old Dunedin driver. “It was a pretty big hit, but luckily the suspension and wheel took most of the impact.’

Gilmour and Cobham were forced to park up for the day, but at least they did so in relative comfort, courtesy of some welcoming Waikato locals.

“We crashed right by a woolshed where some guys were having a bit of a BBQ while watching the rally,” she said. “Chris West rolled just up the road and appeared too, and we were all able to enjoy some good rural hospitality while we waited.”

Out front, Marcus Gronholm powered to his fourth Rally NZ victory in fine style, ahead of his Ford WRC team mate Mikko Hirvonen.

One the two drivers able to beat Ford’s flying Finnish duo to stage wins over the course of the event was Australian Chris Atkinson, whose co-driver is Gilmour’s boyfriend Glen Macneall. Atkinson and Macneall won two stages on Saturday morning before sliding off the road.

First New Zealand honours went to reigning Kiwi national champion Richard Mason in another Subaru. Mason also finished 10th overall, one place ahead of Moto GP ace Valentino Rossi, who showed much-improved pace on the later part of the event.

Results: Rally NZ, (Top New Zealanders only)
Richard Mason (Masterton) Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 1 (10th overall).
Dean Sumner (Rotorua) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, 2 (14th overall).
Stewart Taylor (Hawkes Bay) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, 3 (15th overall).

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