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Emma Gilmour heads for this weekend’s third round of the New Zealand National Rally Championship intent on scoring special stage wins in her new Suzuki Swift Maxi rally car.

Since finishing runner-up on a stage at the previous championship round in Northland, Gilmour has completed an extensive programme of further testing to develop her turbocharged, four-wheel-drive 1.8-litre Swift Maxi.

The test programme has even included competing in a gravel sprint event organised by her local club, the Otago Sports Car Club. Gilmour reckons it was the first major club event she has contested in about ten years, and she was both pleased and relieved to take the Swift to victory against a decent field of Otago competitors.

This weekend’s national championship competition over nine special stages totalling 116km will, of course, be much tougher than a short local event, but Gilmour is confident that the development work carried out in the past month has taken the Swift Maxi to another level in both speed and reliability.

“When we were readying the car for the last championship round it was pretty much a case of focusing on the fundamentals that would give us reasonable reliability and acceptable performance and handling,” she says. “Since then the focus has been on the dozens and dozens of smaller changes that are part of finding the car’s full potential.”

“As well as refining the car mechanically, we have put a lot of effort into getting the set-up right for my driving style”, says Gilmour. “Just as importantly, the testing and local competition has given me a chance to get the hang of driving the car to get the most out of it. This has been really important, as it is quite different to what have been used to in the past.”

Glenn Macneall, who has overseen the development of the Swift Maxi, rejoins Gilmour as co-driver for the Daybreaker event. He was unable to partner her in the previous round due to a prior commitment with Asia-Pacific championship driver Gurav Gill.

Gilmour and Macneall have been awarded the fifth seed for the Daybreaker event, which is the first of four one-day ‘sprint’ events in the 2013 series. The rally is scheduled to start from Manfeild Park in Feilding at 8.30am on Saturday, with the first competitive stage starting at 9am, just north of the town. Competition then moves to the township of Apiti with two loops to the surrounding roads, before the rally finishes in the centre of Feilding at 4pm.

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

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