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Emma Gilmour has secured runner-up position in the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship field and third in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship division in an action-packed drive to fifth overall and second New Zealander honours on the International Rally of Whangarei.

With Australian Rhianon Smyth calling the pace notes from the co-driver's seat, Gilmour made a strong start to event, finishing Saturday’s opening leg third in the national field and Asia-Pacific contingent. She then picked up the pace early on Sunday’s second leg, powering to second in the Asia-Pacific division for the day (behind fellow her own team mate Cody Crocker) and moving up to second the national section of the rally behind defending champion Hayden Paddon.

Sunday’s leg became a race to the wire for Gilmour as, facing worsening engine problems, she sought to keep former Asia-Pacific Rally Champion (APRC) Katsuhiko Taguchi at bay over the final stages. The hard-charging Japanese driver was just over eight seconds behind Gilmour heading into the final stage, but she held him out, albeit by the narrowest of margins – a mere 0.1sec – for the day.

“Taguchi had beaten us on both heats of the previous APRC round in Queensland, and having finished just 17 seconds behind him on Saturday I was determined to give him a real run on the Sunday,” Gilmour explained. “The team made some improvements to the handling of the car overnight which worked a treat, and I was really pleased with my pace over the opening stages.”

But no sooner had Gilmour opened up what looked like a handy advantage over her rival than her car’s engine began to falter.

 â€œTo be honest, it felt like the engine was on the way out, and I was actually starting to worry about whether we would finish at all. It was a desperate scramble to stay in front, but we dug deep made it by the narrowest of margins for the day.”

Gilmour remains securely placed at third the APRC series standings heading for round four, which will be run on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido from 11-12 July.

Paddon, meanwhile became the only driver to finish ahead of Gilmour in the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship standings for the event when former Kiwi champion Richard Mason retired midway through leg two while leading outright. Gilmour has consolidated her clear third placing in the series, and moved closer in the points standings to second-placed Mason. The next NZRC round is Rally Wairarapa, which will run over the weekend of 18-19 July.

Results: 2009 International Rally of Whangarei

Heat 1: 1, R & S Mason (Masterton, NZ, Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 1hr 32mins 48.9 secs; 2, H Paddon/J Kennard (Geraldine, NZ, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +25.1s; 3, B Reeves/G Weston (Australia, Subaru Impreza WRX STI) +53.0s; 4, C Crocker/B Atkinson (Australia, Subaru Impreza WRX STI) +1.4s; 5, K Taguchi/M Stacey (Japan, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +11.8s; 6. E Gilmour/R Smyth (Hamilton, NZ, Subaru Impreza WRX STI) +17.0s;

Heat 2: 1, Paddon, 1h12m.41.3sec; 2, Crocker, +7.2s; 3, Reeves, +33.7s; 4, Gilmour, +0.8s; 5, Taguchi, +0.1s; 6, S Cox/D Calder (Rotorua, NZ, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo), +1m49.8s.

Overall: 1, Paddon, 2h45m55.3sec; 2, Crocker, +1m01.6s; 3, Reeves, +32.3s; 4, Taguchi, +14.1s; 5, Gilmour, +16.9s; 6, K Hall/P Hart (Nelson, NZ, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo), +3m32.3s.

Championship Standings

NZ National Rally Championship Points (after three rounds)
1, Paddon, 131, 190pts; 2, Mason, 173pts; 3, Gilmour, 154pts.

Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Points (after three rounds)
1, Crocker, 32pts; 2. Taguchi, 23pts; 4 Gilmour, 16pts.

Photo: Geoff Ridder

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