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Leading Kiwi rally driver, Emma Gilmour, is aiming for a second successive podium result when the Whangarei Rally roars into life this weekend, even though the event will feature a far greater depth of international talent than at last month’s national championship season opener in Otago.

Gilmour powered her Vantage Team Subaru Impreza WRX STI to runner-up honours behind defending national champion, Richard Mason, at Otago, after leading for much of the rally’s second leg.

That result, scored on the 27-year old’s home event, was her best ever in national competition.

The Whangarei event is round two of both the New Zealand and Asia-Pacific rally championships, which means that the Kiwi championship regulars will be joined by no fewer than 11 overseas drivers. They include defending Asia-Pacific and former Australian champion Cody Crocker. Crocker, who has been awarded the top seed for the event, is a former team-mate of Gilmour’s co-driver Glenn Macneall, and a driver who has helped Gilmour with her own rallying.

“Cody was actually over here for a day earlier this year helping me set up my car for the season,” she says. “Now I’m looking forward to showing him how well it is going by competing against him.

“Last year he and Richard [Mason] had a great battle for victory at New Zealand’s Asia-Pacific round. This year I will need to be there or thereabouts too if we are to achieve the top-three result needed to make the podium.”

Since last month’s Otago Rally, Gilmour has further fine-tuned her car, but worked more on preparing herself for the special demands of the Whangarei Rally.

“Because it is an Asia-Pacific round we get to write our own pacenotes for the event rather than rely on safety notes supplied by the organisers,” she explains.
“One of the strengths Glenn brings to the team is experience with writing pacenotes at world championship level, and that has been something we have been focusing on.”

Gilmour has also been reflecting on her new role as an ambassador for Subaru New Zealand, where she joins the likes of multi-sport legend Steve Gurney and leading fashion designer Miranda Brown.

“These are people I certainly look up to, and it is quite amazing to think I am now an ambassador for Subaru too,” she says. “I am the only one who is a motor sport competitor, which I guess means I am going to be quite involved in customer drive days as well as dealer evenings and other events promoting the Subaru brand.”

Turning her focus back to the challenges of the Whangarei Rally, Gilmour says she is looking forward to the roads, which she will be competing on for the fourth time.

“Stages like Waipu Gorge and Brooks are classics from the days when Rally New Zealand ran north of Auckland, and some of my favourites,” she says. “At Otago I was hoping for the damp conditions - which we got - but for Whangarei the ideal conditions from my perspective are probably dry roads.”

The Whangarei event commences with a ceremonial start at the city’s quayside town basin on Friday, with 16 high-speed special stages totalling 277 kilometres scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday.  

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