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Emma Gilmour is set to contest a round of next year’s Italian national rally championship in a Subaru Impreza after impressing her team, and the fans, at last weekend’s Bettega Memorial Trophy event in Bologna.

Driving a fully developed World Rally Car for the first time, the 26 year old Dunedin driver placed equal seventh in a quality field that included several stars of the World Rally Championship.

“The learning curve was a pretty steep one, but my times improved throughout the event, which was very satisfying,” Gilmour said. “The team was very professional, and have asked me back to contest a round of the Italian championship in 2007.”

If Gilmour takes up the offer she will do so behind the wheel of a Production Class Subaru Impreza WRX, rather than the 2002 Focus WRC she drove last weekend. Meanwhile, the experience of driving the WRC car is one she will savour over the summer.

“I got a quite a surprise when I arrived in Italy to find the car had been painted pink for me,” Gilmour says. “The team had also arranged a quick private test session with the car, which was great because not only was it the first WRC car I’d driven, it was also the first left-hand-drove competition machine I’d driven.”

Gilmour admits she was still learning as the event got underway, though, stalling, spinning and then having a brush with a concrete barrier on successive runs during Saturday’s preliminary rounds. Come Sunday’s all important finals, things went much better for the Kiwi driver.

“I was able to use the WRC car’s special launch control for starts, and that was awesome. The WRC gear change was awesome too,” Gilmour said. “My times improved throughout the day, which was very satisfying.”

Outright honours on the Bettega event went to Italian world championship regular Gigi Galli (Peugeot), who beat Australian Subaru factory driver Chris Atkinson in the all-or-nothing final.

Gilmour describes the atmosphere at the Bettega event as “fantastic”, and the wider Bologna Motor Show of which it is a part as “massive.”

She is now homeward bound, with a late change in tickets ensuring she will be back in New Zealand in time for Christmas. She will reveal her full plans for the 2007 season after the summer break.


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