Emma Gilmour has targeted taking the lead in the 2010 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship as her number one aim heading into this weekend’s penultimate round of the series in Nelson.

Currently placed second in the championship, two points behind Dean Sumner, Gilmour is confident she and her Subaru Impreza STI will be on top-form at Nelson, but is wary of the unique challenges posed by the two day event.

“My 2010 record so far is two second placings and one fourth from three events, and I am really happy with the way I am driving,” she says. “The team has been working hard on making further incremental improvements to the car since last month’s round in Whangarei, and I am expecting these will enable us to take another step-up in terms of speed”.

However Gilmour admits a healthy respect for the Nelson Rally’s forestry roads, which are the rockiest in the Kiwi championship.

“I’ve contested the Nelson Rally several times before with my best result being a third place in 2008. Although it’s not a rough rally in comparison to some of the overseas events I’ve done, it is certainly the roughest we face in our home championship,” she says. “Rocks are the particular challenge; if you are not spot-on in terms of writing your pace notes and driving to them then it is all too easy to cop a puncture.”

Gilmour and co-driver Glenn Macneall hope that their experience on the rugged roads used in the Asia-Pacific championship will stand them in good stead at Nelson. The fact that they will start the event running second on the road behind Sumner may also help.

“That means we will always have some idea from his driving lines of how Dean is going, and we will be able to adjust what we do in response to that. The downside is that sometimes the car ahead can flick a rock or two out onto the driving line, so that adds a small element of extra risk for us.”

This year’s Nelson Rally comprises 12 special stages totalling 256 kilometres. Each of the two days is treated as a separate heat for championship purposes, but while the majority of points are awarded separately for each day, a minority are awarded on the basis of each driver’s performance over the two days.

Along with Sumner, Gilmour’s strongest rivals at Nelson will be former national champions Chris West and Richard Mason. Defending champion and 2009 Nelson Rally winner Hayden Paddon will not contest the event as it clashes with a round of his production world rally championship programme in Europe.
Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship points going into the Rally of Nelson are:
1, D Sumner, 190; 2, E Gilmour, 188; 3, H Paddon, 168; 4, C West, 136.
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