A broken wrist wasn’t enough to prevent Emma Gilmour from securing runner-up honours in the 2009 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) after a determined drive on a demanding series finale in China.  The series result is both a career-best for Gilmour and the best by a New Zealander in Asia-Pacific rallying since the year 2000, when the late Possum Bourne won the APRC crown.

Gilmour started the 13-15 November Chinese event placed third in the series, knowing that she needed to beat former APRC champion Katsuhiko Taguchi to move up to second.

The initial signs weren’t promising for the 29 year-old New Zealander, who was preventing from maintaining the pace needed to stay within striking distance of her experienced Japanese rival by an early engine problem.  Fortune then swung her way late on the rally’s opening leg when Taguchi was sidelined for good by a serious mechanical problem. His demise left Gilmour placed fifth overall and second in the APRC field for the event behind her Motor Image Racing Team mate and already-confirmed series winner Cody Crocker (Australia).

Gilmour then needed a steady run to the finish on the rally’s remaining leg to take second in the series, but that proved no easy matter over extremely demanding Chinese roads that had already claimed half of the rally’s field as casualties on the opening day.

She suffered a puncture on Sunday’s first stage, with the inevitable delay made worse firstly by the difficulty in finding a suitable place to stop and change the wheel, and secondly by the car falling off the jack. On a next stage, a minor pace note error caused a small off-road excursion, during which the car’s steering wheel jerked violently, breaking Gilmour’s right wrist.

“Continuing on with a fractured wrist would have been very, very tough at the best of times, but even more so in China, where the stages are so much tighter and twister than I am used to,” Gilmour said. “As if that wasn’t enough, we also had both heavy rain and fog to contend with! Still, I wasn’t going to surrender a chance for second in the championship, so I continued as best I could.”

Gilmour dropped only one place in the overall positions and was able to hold second in the APRC field as she soldiered on to the finish.

“My stage times weren’t flash, but the focus was always on doing enough to take that championship second placing,” she said. “I’m feeling pretty sore having done so, but also delighted and proud, both for myself, and also for my team, who now have a one-two result to show for their 2009 Asia-Pacific campaign.”

“I’d like to say a special thank you to my two co-drivers for the series, Rhianon Smyth and Claire Mole. I started my rallying career as a co-driver, so know only too well how tough it is playing that role, especially in demanding conditions on events that are new to both of us in the car.”

Gilmour scored her championship second placing by finishing in the top three on every one of the six rounds she contested. Her best individual results were second in the APRC field on the Malaysian and Chinese rounds of the series, both of which she was contesting for the first time this year. She finished third in the APRC field the Australian, New Zealand, Japanese and Indonesian event.

Her APRC success caps off an excellent season in which she has also finished a career-best third in her home series, the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship.

Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Rally China, Longyou, 13-15 October
Results for APRC -registered drivers
1. Cody Crocker, Ben Atkinson (Australia, Subaru Impreza STi)
2. Emma Gilmour, Claire Mole (NZ, Subaru Impreza STI)
No other APRC-registered finishers

Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Points (top three with provisional final points)
1 Cody Crocker (Australia) 96pts; 2 Emma Gilmour (New Zealand), 53 pts; 3 Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) 41pts.
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