Gilmour battles to top WRC result in Rally NZ
- 26th June 2012, 9:48am
Emma Gilmour battled her way through major problems on the final day of Rally New Zealand to claim 14th place overall, her best ever finish on a World Rally Championship event.
Along with the overall finish – two places better than her previous best on a WRC round – Gilmour was the third Kiwi home, and second amongst the national rally championship contenders for the three-day event.
The Dunedin-based Vantage Team Subaru driver began Rally NZ aiming to match the pace of defending national champion Richard Mason. The pair quickly broke clear of the rest of the national championship field as well as running strongly in the overall order for the rally, which counts as round seven of this year’s world series.
However, with her car struggling for rear-end grip in the slippery leg one conditions, Gilmour gradually lost ground to Mason, finishing the day some 50 seconds down. The contest was much more even on Saturday’s second leg: the pair traded times all day and the margin between them at the end of the leg was just 12 seconds.
Come Sunday’s third and final day, Gilmour set out determined to take the leg win from Mason. However a severe brake problem intervened on the opening stages of the day. No sooner had that been fixed then a holed radiator emerged as the next problem. Gilmour and co-driver Glenn Macneall were able to plug the leak but Gilmour was concerned the loss of water might already have damaged the engine, and so drove conservatively over the final stages to be sure of completing the rally.
“It was a frustrating conclusion to the event, because the car had been going so well on the second leg, and we were looking forward to finishing with another fast day,” admitted Gilmour. “I guess the good thing was that we were so far ahead of the next-best car when we struck trouble that we were able to go into cruise mode without any danger of losing a place.”
She eventually nursed her Subaru Impreza to the finish in fourteenth place overall, one place behind Mason, and one place ahead of the third national championship finisher Matt Jansen.
“That’s still a pretty good result: The last time Rally NZ was part of the world championship I managed to finish 17th, and the time before that 16th. This year I have managed a top-15 WRC finish for the first time.”
While Mason’s eventual round win means he is very well placed for the 2012 national title with one event still to run, Gilmour’s pace against visiting overseas stars running equivalent cars was quite revealing.
Even with those final day problems, which cost her around two minutes, she still finished more than ten minutes in front of Argentinean driver Marcus Ligato, who was the top-placed Production World Rally Championship finisher on Rally NZ. Gilmour was even farther ahead of top European woman rally driver Ramona Karlsson when the latter’s car caught fire and burnt out in spectacular fashion midway through the rally.
Outright honours on this year’s Rally NZ went to Sebastian Loeb of France. This was the eight-times world champion’s third win in New Zealand. The top Kiwi home, and winner of the S2000 WRC category was South Canterbury’s Hayden Paddon, who finished 12th overall.
The world championship now heads to Europe, with the 2-4 August Rally Finland the next of six further events on the calendar. The New Zealand championship will continue later that same month, with Rally Gisborne the fifth and final round of the series.
Photo: Peter Whitten
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