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Emma Gilmour is aiming to improve on her current third placings in the Asia-Pacific and New Zealand rally championships on this weekend’s International Rally of Whangarei.

The 5-7 June Northland event is unique for Gilmour as it is the only rally that counts towards both championships. The 29-year old Kiwi driver is not fazed by this making the event doubly important to her; rather, her love of roads over which the rally is contested is such that she counts it as a major plus.

“Some people will remember my big crash on this event two years ago, but don’t think for a moment that means I don’t enjoy the Rally Whangarei roads,” says Gilmour. “Many of them were used on New Zealand’s round of the WRC in the past, and so are internationally rated as some of the best rally roads in the world. That reputation is fully deserved.”

“The fact that my performance over the weekend will have a bearing on my fortunes in two championships simply adds to my motivation to continue scoring podium results and stage wins. Having finished third in the points on all three rallies I have contested so far this year, my personal goal this weekend is to do even better.

Local fans used to Gilmour competing in her Vantage Aluminium Joinery-liveried Subaru Impreza WRX sedan will have to adjust to seeing her competing in a different car this weekend; it’s one of the latest-model WRX STI hatchbacks that she and Motor Image Racing team mate Cody Crocker are driving in the Asia-Pacific series.

“Compared to my own car, it has a more even power delivery across the rev range,” she explains. “It also handles a little better on fast, smooth roads like those which form the majority of the Whangarei Rally route.”

Gilmour’s own car will be used on the Whangarei Rally, by Australian Brendan Reeves.

“It’s great to have Brendan driving the car, not least to keep the names of my NZRC sponsors out there this weekend,” says Gilmour. “People just need to remember that on this rally I’m in the blue Impreza hatch with number five on it, while my mainly black Vantage Aluminium Joinery Impreza sedan carrying number nine has Brendan at the wheel!”

Gilmour’s co-driver this weekend is Australian Rhianon Smyth, who partnered Gilmour to third place on the Asia-Pacific series opener in Queensland last month.

“Rhianon has come over to New Zealand early for this event and we have spent a lot of time reviewing my pace notes and in-car video footage from previous years,” Gilmour says. “After making such a good start together in Queensland we are aiming to step up further as a combination this weekend.”

Top seed for the Whangarei Rally has been awarded to Gilmour’s team mate and defending Asia-Pacific champion Cody Crocker ahead of former Asia-Pacific champion Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) and defending Kiwi champion Hayden Paddon. Gilmour starts fifth, behind former Indian champion Gaurav Gill. Richard Mason, the current NZRC leader, is seeded eighth behind the APRC-registered competitors.

“The competition is going to be pretty tight,” predicts Gilmour. “We have had a great start to the season with several podium results and Rhianon and I are aiming to continue that run.”

Comprising some 280 kilometres of high-speed special stages, Rally Whangarei opens with a ceremonial start on Friday evening. Saturday’s opening leg runs over eight stages, and Sunday’s leg comprises a further eight stages.

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