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Two weeks from now Emma Gilmour will be preparing to take the start at the German round of the World Rally Championship, but her focus for this weekend is on consolidating her top three-position in the Kiwi national series at the Hawkes Bay Rally.

The Vantage Team Subaru driver has been seeded fourth in a field of 57 cars for the two-day event, and says that as well as targeting a top-three result overall, she is determined to challenge for fastest time on each of the event’s high-speed special stages.

“To be honest, while I had a good event in terms of series points at the last national round in Northland, I wasn’t entirely happy with the consistency of my speed,” Gilmour says. “My aim is to lift my game and achieve that consistency this weekend. If I can do that it will be good for my New Zealand championship campaign, and it will also mean I can fly to Europe next week confident in the form I have shown at home.”

“Achieving that consistency is not something I can do on my own though: it is a real team effort involving my co-driver Chris Cobham, and the guys at Possum Bourne Motorsport who put so much effort into preparing my car,” she acknowledges. “Chris has been great all season, and the Possum Bourne Motorsport crew have made great strides with the car since taking over full responsibility for preparing at running it in June.”

Gilmour expects defending national champion Richard Mason, former champion Chris West, and past Open Class champion Sam Murray to be her strongest opponents this weekend.

“Richard and Chris have been the established front-runners for some years now, and Sam and I have emerged as their challengers this season,” she says. “We all drive Subaru Impreza WRXs, and we know and respect each other as drivers, which makes for some great and generally good-natured rivalry. It is certainly going to be quite different when I get to Europe and find myself competing against a group of drivers who I don’t know.”

Starting and finishing in Napier, and venturing as far north as the Wairoa area, the Hawkes Bay event is the longest in the 2006 national series, with 12 special stages totaling 288 kilometres.

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