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“I’ve never been so excited to reach the end of a rally in eighth place,” was Emma Gilmour’s reaction to completing this weekend’s Rally Wairarapa, the final round of the New Zealand National Rally Championship.

The result marked the first event finish in national championship competition for her new Suzuki Swift Maxi, and came at the end of a demanding day’s competition during which she ran as high as fifth overall.

Gilmour felt she and the team made good progress developing the Swift, which was fitted with a new 1.6-litre turbocharged engine for the event. This was demonstrated when she powered the car to a string of top-four national championship special stage times in the middle section of the event.

The encouraging run of pace ended with a front differential fault on the penultimate stage of the event. This pitched the car into a dramatic high-speed spin from which Gilmour counted herself lucky to emerge shaken, but with the car unscathed.

“We were pressing hard in fourth gear when the differential went, and for a few seconds there it was a wild ride,” she said. “Luckily I was able to gather things up and continue, but with the differential gone, it became a case of nursing the car on at a much slower speed than before to make it to the rally finish.”

 “Most importantly from the team’s perspective, the car had been showing good speed and reliability up to that penultimate stage, and the new engine we have developed out of our home base in Dunedin ran well.”

“As I said at the start of the season, this was always going to be a development year with our new car, and it is great to conclude the championship on this positive note. Once again, I would like to especially thank my hard-working team for the long hours they have put into developing and running the Swift Maxi this year, and the team’s commercial partners for their support.”

Gilmour also offered her congratulations to Hayden Paddon, who secured the 2013 national crown by winning in the Wairarapa. Paddon had the advantage of being the first car through the stages in very dusty conditions, and so was able to make a handy early break over his arch-rival and series runner-up Richard Mason.

Photo: Emma Gilmour powers her Suzuki Swift Maxi through a stage on the Rally Wairarapa (photo by Jody Seabright).

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