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With a top-three series placing already secured, Emma Gilmour is preparing to mount an all-out bid for victory at this weekend’s Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship final in Nelson.

It’s an approach that is dictated in part by the current championship standings, which leave Gilmour as the only driver with a chance of overhauling defending champion Hayden Paddon for the series win. At the same time, pushing for a win represents a logical next step for Gilmour, whose strong record in this year’s five-event championship has so far comprised third placings on the first two rounds, followed by second placings in the national field Production Class field on the most recent two rounds.

Gilmour concedes that snatching the title from Paddon is going to be something of a long shot: so long as he finishes ninth or better on one of the rally’s two legs, Paddon is assured of the crown; even if he his does falter, Gilmour knows that nothing less than an outright win will be needed from her to grab the crown.

“That makes it pretty simple from my perspective,” Gilmour says. “I have to drive to win.”

“If Hayden chooses to take the safe approach he will cruise to the title, but if does so, he will also make it just that little bit easier for me to have a serious crack at winning the rally outright. For my part, so long as I can beat Richard Mason this weekend then I am assured of second place in the championship, and even if I fail to do so, I am still guaranteed at least third in the series.”

Gilmour believes that making a fast start will be a key to her Nelson victory bid, and she will be carrying out extra pre-event testing with her co-driving partner Glenn Macneall to ensure she and her Vantage Team Subaru Impreza STi are fully prepared to attack from the outset.

“At the last championship round in the Wairarapa a slow start cost me any chance of pressing for victory. That’s something that I am determined to avoid this weekend.”

Gilmour admits to a special fondness for Rally Nelson, on which she finished third in 2008.

“That was very much a comeback result for me at the end of a shocking season. The memory of that weekend is part of what will give me the confidence to push to victory in Nelson this time.”

While she is setting her sights high, Gilmour is in no ways underestimating the talents of her two main rivals.

“Hayden was the first Production Class car home when Australia hosted its round of the world championship last weekend, and Richard was the third. They achieved those results against Australia’s best and a strong international field.”

“Their pace and results show just how high the standard is at the head of the New Zealand championship; the pace in our series is is, quite simply, world-class.”

Rally Nelson starts on just after 10am on Saturday in the city’s Trafalgar Square, with day one’s action comprising six special stages totalling 135km. Sunday’s leg is slightly longer taking in another six stages totalling 140km.

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