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Emma Gilmour will be gunning for a top-six finish and giving three lucky staff from Vantage Aluminium Joinery the trip of their lives when the Targa New Zealand tarmac rally roars around the North Island next week.

The 26-year old Dunedin driver finished fifth on last year’s Targa event driving her regular New Zealand rally championship car. This year she is stepping up to a Subaru Australia-owned Impreza WRX STI which has been specially developed for tarmac rallying. The car, which was used by well-known Australian rally driver Dean Herridge on the Targa Tasmania event earlier this year, is on loan to the Vantage Rally Team for this one event.

“We looked at using our own Impreza, but we are committed to contesting Rally New Zealand [the penultimate round of the world championship] in the car in mid-November, and felt the timing was a bit tight to risk that car,” says Gilmour. “As well, our car is set-up for gravel rallying, whereas the car we have been loaned for the Targa will be far better on the tarmac-based Targa.”

While having such a car adds some pressure to improve on her 2005 Targa result, Gilmour is adamant that her primary reason for contesting the event is to share the experience of rallying with three lucky staff from her main sponsor.

“Three Vantage fabricators have been selected, and each of them will be sitting alongside me as co-driver for two days,” she explains. “When we first did this last year I think finding volunteers was a bit tough, but this time I hear so many were keen that the names had to be drawn out of a hat.”

The three selected are Glenn van Asselt, Darryl Thompson and Jason Farmilo. Van Asselt co-drove for Gilmour on part of last year’s event, but Thompson and Farmilo will be having their first taste of co-driving for one of the country’s fastest rally drivers.

While the emphasis may be on having fun, Gilmour’s co-drivers will be responsible for all of the normal paperwork of a rally navigator, as well as reading instructions from the rally road book on the high-speed special stages.

“While it won’t be quite as intense as with my regular co-driver Chris [Cobham], the guys certainly aren't along for the ride,” Gilmour says. “We have that aim of a top six result to keep us focused.”

The 2006 Targa New Zealand opens with a twilight stage near Papakura on Sunday 22nd October, followed by a prologue on Labour Day based around the Pukekohe race track.

The Targa ‘proper’ then runs from Tuesday 24 October to Saturday 28 October, over a route from Pukekohe to Hastings via New Plymouth and Palmerston North. The rally makes overnight stops at New Plymouth (24 October), Palmerston North (25 & 26 October) and Hastings (27 & 28 October).

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