Emma Gilmour gave her new Subaru Impreza WRX STI a successful national championship debut on the Otago Rally, finishing runner-up in the overall standings after two days of tough competition.

Running third on the road for the rally’s opening leg on Saturday, Gilmour faced the double challenge of having to play a part in sweeping loose gravel from the roads, and battling thick dust on a number of early stages. Slipping to seventh after three stages, she then climbed back to fifth overall and fourth in the Group N Production Class field with a powerful afternoon performance that included a win on the longest stage of the day.   

That result earned Gilmour a fifth-place start order for the rally’s second leg on Sunday. She was quickly on the pace, taking the lead for the day by winning the morning’s second special stage.  Though she then lost time with a tyre problem in the next stage, further top times - including a win through the fifth stage of the day - kept the Vantage Rally Team driver in contention for the leg lead.

Unfortunately Gilmour’s challenge was blunted when she crested a brow leading into a very fast bend, only to find a tree stump in the middle of the road.

“That spot had already caught out one of the drivers ahead big-time, and when he went off the road he flicked the stump onto the road,” Gilmour explained. “We managed to avoid the stump but had to half leave the road to do so, and when we did that damaged the car’s brakes.”

“Then, as well as having to finish the stage without brakes, we started to catch him and got slowed by his dust,” Gilmour explained. “We had been on track for another great time but lost about 15 seconds. With the battle for the lead being so tight, that was a significant blow.”

Gilmour still started the rally’s final two stages placed third for the day and third overall for the event. That third placing for the event become a second placing when long-time rally leader Chris West lost a wheel and retired on the final stage. However, fellow Subaru driver Richard Mason managed to prevent Gilmour from claiming second for the day with a blistering run through the rally’s last stage.

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