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While the special stage wins she had targeted did not come, Emma Gilmour is more positive than ever about the potential of her new Suzuki Swift Maxi rally car having completed six stages of last weekend’s Daybreaker Rally in the Manawatu.

Gilmour secured one third-fastest and two fourth-fastest times on the stages of this latest round of the New Zealand National Rally Championship, while her crew used the intervening service breaks to work on the car’s aerodynamics, power characteristics and handling.

“It was frustrating at times, but also hugely encouraging,” says Gilmour. “We are learning and improving the car all the time, and I am more confident than ever that we will have it developed into a potential rally winner by the end of season.”

The Dunedin-based driver says that following the previous championship event in Northland, her team had made a number of mechanical and aerodynamic changes to the Swift to boost its performance for the Daybreaker.

“It has all the makings of an absolute rocketship,” she says. “So much so, in fact, that at times over the first stages it felt like the car was in control rather than me”.

Evidence of that fact was provided by a spin on the opening stage, and a slight over-revving on the third stage that caused the engine to drop onto three cylinders. In between, Gilmour bagged a fourth-fastest stage time. She missed the event’s fourth stage to give her crew more time to check the engine over. They also reduced its turbo-boost and lowered the car’s ride height to makes its performance more useable. A fourth and third fastest stage time followed in those stages, despite the car going into engine-preserving ‘limp home’ mode a couple of times in the stages.

Concern over water use led Gilmour to withdraw from the rally having completed six stages.

“It was very much a precautionary move, as we are not going to gain anything at this stage of the car’s development by risking major engine damage,” she says. “The team are now back in Dunedin and we have a long but manageable list of enhancements to be made before the next round of championship.”

That next round is the 11 August Canterbury Rally, which is returning to the national rally championship for the first time in recent years. It will be centred on classic rallying roads in the famous Ashley Forest north of Christchurch.

Photo: Emma Gilmour’s new Suzuki Swift Maxi in action on last weekend’s national championship round in the Wairarapa (photo courtesy of Euan Cameron).

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