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Emma Gilmour has powered into the lead on the opening leg of the Targa New Zealand tarmac rally.

The 26 year old took her Vantage Team Subaru Impreza to three stage wins during the day, and arrived the overnight halt in New Plymouth nine seconds clear of three times national Kiwi rally champion Joe McAndrew in his Nissan Skyline GTR.

Damp conditions suited the battling pair, both of whom enjoyed the benefit of four-wheel-drive traction to pull half-a-minute clear of their rivals on a wet run south from Auckland.

It was Gilmour who grabbed the early lead, but she dropped to second after the drivers’ side windscreen wiper on her Subaru failed on the rally’s fourth stage. She recovered to set two fastest and two third-fastest times through the day’s remaining four stages, snatching the lead back from McAndrew on the last stage of the day.

“Losing the wiper made for a pretty hairy stage,” she said. “Other than that it has been a trouble-free day.”

Gilmour described her car, Dean Herridge’s purpose-built tarmac rally machine on loan from Subaru Australia, as “just brilliant.”

Australian driver Ray Vandersee claimed third place honours for the day in his Skelter G-Force Special, just 0.1 seconds clear of Clark Proctor in his Ford Escort/Nissan special.

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