Rally New Zealand may not be a world championship round in 2011, but Emma Gilmour is still looking forward to competing on the country’s premier rally as it take its place as round two of the Kiwi national championship this weekend.

The Vantage Team Subaru driver has a great track record for the event, having finished second-New Zealander twice before. She is a particular fan of the fast, flowing Waikato special stages that will form the heart of the 2011 rally.

“Not only are these great stages by local standards, the best of them – such as the Whaanga Coast stage south of Raglan – are internationally renowned,” Gilmour explains. “They are technically challenging, with lots of camber changes and a slippery coating of small gravel on top.”

Having run very strongly in the early stages of last month’s national championship opener – the Drivesouth Rally of Otago – Gilmour is confident she will have the pace again this weekend to challenge for a podium result.

“One of the ironies of our Otago experience was that the car wasn’t handling quite as we liked on the opening leg, yet despite this we still managed to run second for a time and finally finish the day third. Then, when we seemed to have the handling sorted on leg two, I made a small mistake which damaged the car and cost us the chance of a top-three result.”

Gilmour managed to salvage sixth-placed national series points at Otago, but after the temporary patch-up that got her to the end of that event more substantial work was required to prepare her Subaru Impreza WRX STI for this weekend.”

“It’s been a big job for the team since Otago, but in typical fashion they have put in all the hours necessary to return the car to its normal pristine state. My job now is to keep it that way, while securing a top result for the team.”

Gilmour has been awarded fourth seed for Rally NZ, behind fellow Subaru driver Hayden Paddon and her Mitsubishi-mounted rivals Dean Sumner and Chris West.

Rally NZ opens this Friday with a driver autograph session and official start ceremony at the Manukau City Centre from 6:00pm with the first competitors going over the start ramp from 7:30pm. The Hampton Downs motor sport facility then becomes the base for the serious rally action, with an 8am start for eight special stages on Saturday, including two super special stages run around the Hampton race circuit. Sunday’s action comprises a six further stages around Raglan, including the Whaanga Coast stage, before a final Hampton super special stage and rally finish at 5:30 pm.

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