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Emma Gilmour is satisfied with a steady start that has her placed 19th overall and fourth New Zealander after Friday’s opening leg of Rally New Zealand.

A spin and stall in the rally’s second stage was the only major drama for the 26-year-old Dunedin driver on leg one of the event, although a slight misfire on the day’s third stage also hampered her bid to stay in touch with the front-running Kiwi pace of reigning national champion Richard Mason.

“Conditions have been quite challenging, especially second time through the long Te Koraha stage,” she said. “The road had cut up very badly in parts, right into the clay base, which made it awfully slippery.”

Gilmour said her Vantage Team Subaru Impreza WRX STI was handling nicely, and she was comfortable with the low-risk approach she had taken to the opening day of the rally.

“It is easy to get excited abut your position at the end of day one, but you have to remember this is a three day event,” she said. “I am focused on achieving a good result when the rally finishes on Sunday afternoon, after two more days of action.”

Gilmour also noted with a smile that, for now at least, she was leading seven-time world motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi, who finished the day in 24th place in his far more powerful Impreza WRC machine.

Out front, Marcus Gronholm confirmed his hot favourite status by winning every special stage of leg one ahead of his Ford WRC team mate Mikko Hirvonen. Gilmour’s boyfriend Glen Macneall, who co-drives for Chris Atkinson in the Subaru WRC team, finished Friday’s action in ninth place overall.

Results: Rally NZ, Leg One (Top New Zealanders only)
Richard Mason (Masterton) Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 1 (15th overall).
Andrew Hawkeswood (Auckland) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, 2 (16th overall).
Dean Sumner (Rotorua) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, 3 (18th overall).
Emma Gilmour (Dunedin) Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 4 (19th overall).

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