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The final round of the 2006 World Rally Championship has been a forgettable event for Emma Gilmour, but the 26-year old Dunedin driver has still managed to win a place in a prestigious International Rally Challenge.

Gilmour suffered a string of mechanical problems on the weekend’s Cardiff-based Wales Rally GB, managing to complete only one of the event’s three legs. Even so, she has impressed those that count enough to secure a wildcard entry into this week’s Fiesta Sporting Trophy International Challenge.

The Challenge starts on Tuesday, and the winner-takes-all prize is a 12 month contract with the elite M-Sport world rally team, which claimed the manufacturers’ championship in this year’s WRC.

“We start on Tuesday [UK time] with a day of physical, psychological and media skills testing,” explains Gilmour. “Then on Wednesday we do a driving shoot-out on a special stage near M-Sport headquarters.”

The top five then have an interview with M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson before the winner is selected. That winner will spend 12 months working with the team preparing and testing cars for the likes of Marcus Gronholm, and will attend all rounds of the 2007 WRC in a supporting role.

Gilmour believes the experience she gained attending the elite Motorsport Academy at the New Zealand Academy of Sport (South Island) in 2005 will be of great benefit.

“Physical and psychological testing and media skills training were all part of the academy, so at least I know what I'm likely to be in for,” she says.

She is also looking forward to the opportunity she now has to end her trip to the UK, and her 2006 rally programme, on a positive note.

“Wales Rally GB was a bit of a nightmare,” she says. “I seemed to spend more time parked up by the side of the stages waiting to be rescued than competing. As you can imagine, that is pretty frustrating. I’m now focussed on putting that behind me and doing my very best on the challenge this week.”

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