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Leading New Zealand rally driver Emma Gilmour is set to contest Rally Japan at the end of October, as guest driver for a top Japanese team.

The Dunedin-based 27-year has accepted an invitation to contest the event, which is a round of this year’s world rally series, for the Subaru Rally Team Japan, as team mate to current Japanese champion Noriyuki Katsuka.

“The team is run by current world production class champion Toshi Arai, and in recent years he has made a point of running a second car on Rally Japan for an overseas driver,” Gilmour explains. “Top Australians Cody Croker and Dean Herridge have both taken up the offer in the past, and this year I am delighted to do the same.”

Gilmour, co-driven by her regular partner Glenn Macneall, will drive a current-model Production Class Impreza STi on the rally. However, in part to enable her tune the car’s handling set-up to her preferences, she will run the car with the suspension and gearbox from her Vantage Team New Zealand rally championship rally car.

“It is the right decision in terms of setting up the car, but having to freight some of my own parts over has added to the cost,” she says. “Luckily Dunedin Custom Brokers have come on board to assist with some of those costs, which contributes to making it all possible.”

While Gilmour has never contested Japan’s world championship event before, she has rallied in Japan previously.

“Actually, my first ever rally as a driver outside of New Zealand was a rally in Japan,” she says. “It was a tarmac event, though, whereas Rally Japan is a gravel event, held mainly in forests on the country’s northern island of Hokkaido.”

“I hear the conditions are quite similar to New Zealand, but with roads that are a little narrower than we are used to. I will be running down the order with the leading Japanese national drivers, so the road conditions are also likely to be a little rough.”

“I am really looking forward to the challenge of this event, which will be the fourth world championship rally I have contested outside of New Zealand,’ she says.

“Once again I will be looking to measure myself against the best production class drivers there, which is something I never got to do on Rally NZ this year. Rally Japan is a round of the production class section of the world championship this year, and so the international section of the Production Class field will be a pretty classy one: I also know that the best of the Japanese drivers go like crazy on their own round of the world series.”

“I am also approaching this as an exciting and fun way to round off what has been a pretty tough season for Glenn and I.”

Gilmour leaves for Rally Japan on October 19, and the event itself runs from 25-28 October.

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