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Emma Gilmour is now just two points off the New Zealand Rally Championship lead after a powerful run on this weekend’s Rally of Whangarei.

The Vantage Subaru team driver started the event nineteen points behind series leader Dean Sumner, but outpaced him over both days of competition. Finishing second on each day to eventual rally winner and reigning national champion Hayden Paddon, Gilmour closed the gap between her and Sumner to a mere two points with two rounds of the series to go

“It would have been even better to have grabbed the lead, but that’s now something to aim for at next month’s round of the series in Nelson,” Gilmour said.

Gilmour also finished second overall on the event, which had attracted a strong international field due its standing as a round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

She was the second-fastest of the New Zealand drivers behind Paddon from the rally’s opening stage, and improved from sixth overall to third in the international component of the event during the course of the opening day.

“I didn’t get my tyre choice quite right for the first set of stages and there was also the added challenge of this being my first rally with Ben Atkinson as my co-driver,” she explained. “He’s a real professional, and after we took a little time getting the delivery of the pace notes spot-on, everything went smoothly inside the car.”

Having finished Saturday’s stages in third place overall, Gilmour climbed to second early on Sunday’s stages when Indian driver Gaurav Gill (co-driven by Gilmour’s fiancée Glenn Macneall) was slowed by a failing gearbox. A challenge from former WRC-ace Alistair McRae, who briefly passed Gilmour, was blunted by a faulty windscreen demister in his car.

“We had our own little problems on Sunday too, making a wrong call on tyres for a second morning in a row,” Gilmour said. “But we came through that OK, and had a fairly good run to the finish.”

“Hayden was a real class act out front; all that experience he is gaining on the WRC stage really shows. My approach was not to worry too much about what he was doing, and to keep a clear focus on securing that championship second placing that would give us the best possible haul of points.”

“With Dean and I now so closely matched on points, next month’s championship round in Nelson is going to be a pivotal event for the series.”

Former national champion Chris West had been heading for fifth overall and third of the New Zealand championship competitors, but was forced out on the rally’s final stage. That left Sumner to take his place, ahead of Patrick Malley.

New Zealand Rally Championship, Rally of Whangarei

Overall Classification
1, H Paddon, J Kennard (NZ, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 2h.46m.32.7s
2, E Gilmour, B Atkinson (NZ, Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 2h50m28.0s
3. B Reeves, R Smyth (Australia, Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 2h50m55.8s
4. A McRae, B Hayes (Scotland, Proton Satria Neo) 2h50m55.8s
6, D Sumner, P Fallon (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 2h52m00.4s
5, P Malley, M Read (NZ, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10) 2h52m00.5s

National Championship Points.
1, Sumner, 190; 2, Gilmour, 188; 3, Paddon, 166; 4, West (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9), 136; 4; 5, Malley 119; Kingsley Thompson, 105.

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