Emma Gilmour cannot wait for the national rally championship to start next weekend, having blown away her pre-season driving cobwebs with a determined but ultimately frustrating drive at Easter’s Race to the Sky Hillclimb in Central Otago.

New Zealand’s top woman rally driver started the event keen to equal her 2006 result, where she finished sixth overall and took class honours. Despite a series of niggling mechanical problems during Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions, she seemed on course to do just that when she was sixth fastest and first in class in Sunday qualifying.

Unfortunately Gilmour was then forced to pull off the course and retire on the all-or-nothing final run up the 14.8km hillclimb course when her Vantage Team Subaru Impreza suffered a transmission fault.

It wasn’t all bad news for the Vantage Team though: Gilmour’s team mate – Swedish rally ace Kenneth Eriksson – powered his ex-Possum Bourne Impreza WRC hillclimb special to runner-up honours behind eight-times Race to the Sky winner Monster Tajima of Japan.

“It has been a difficult weekend for me, but a great one for Kenneth, who had the disappointment of retiring here last year,” Gilmour said. “While I would have loved to have posted another strong result, my real focus for 2007 is the national rally championship. This weekend was in part about getting the team working together at an event for the first time this year, and that is something we have certainly done.”

This was also the first event with the team for Emma’s partner, Glen Macneall, since he left the Subaru World Rally Team last week. He played a team management role over the weekend and will take up duties as co-driver next weekend, when the national rally championship roars into life at Gilmour’s home event, the Otago Rally.

Gilmour made history on the event last year when she became the first woman to lead a heat of the national championship, and is determined to press for victory in 2007.

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