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Emma Gilmour will be without her regular Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) co-driver Rhianon Smyth for next weekend’s round of the series in Malaysia.

Smyth, who has partnered Gilmour to podium results on the last three APRC rounds, has been sidelined after sustaining injuries in a crash while co-driving for her brother Brendan Reeves on the latest round of the Australian Rally Championship. Smyth broke both her legs in the crash, and while she is on track to make a good recovery, she will be unable to resume her co-driving role in the immediate future.

“Having been involved in a serious accident myself a couple of years ago I have some idea of what Rhianon and Brendan are going through right now,” says Gilmour. “This is a tough time for them both. Along with everyone else in the Motor Image Racing Team I wish them all the best for their recovery, and look forward to Rhianon rejoining the team in due course.”

For the 15-16 August Malaysian rally, experienced Englishwoman Claire Mole will take Smyth’s place alongside Gilmour. Mole has co-driven for Gilmour on several previous international events, including on world championship rounds in Europe, and on Rally New Zealand. She has also competed in Malaysia previously, which is a bonus for the team.

“With the team keen to keep an all-female combination in place, and with me equally determined to have someone I know alongside, Claire was pretty much the automatic choice,” says Gilmour. “I am delighted she was able to join me for the event at such short notice.”

 â€œWhile we have not rallied together for some time we have always communicated really well. Claire has also been busy competing in the UK season, and so is match fit as far as rallying is concerned.”

Gilmour, who is currently placed third in the APRC behind her Subaru team mate Cody Crocker and Mitsubishi rival Katsu Taguchi, will be making her first start in Malaysia next weekend.

“We were lucky enough to gain some experience of Malaysian conditions in pre-season testing so at least I know what to expect,” she says. “First up there will be sweltering temperatures, and on top of that the roads – most of which run through palm plantations - will be very rough.”

“I have been putting in some long hours in the gym to get on top of the physical challenges the event poses, and am flying up to Malaysia early to acclimatise to the conditions and do some promotional work for the team.”

Gilmour’s aim for Malaysia has always been to gain experience of the event, and consolidate her position in the APRC series standings.

“Nothing that has happened in the past week has changed that,” says the Hamilton-based New Zealander.

Along with the conditions, the Malaysian rally will pose some new competitor challenges, the most notable being that this is the home event for former APRC and world production class champion Karamjit Singh.

“While he is not entered for the APRC this year, Karamjit will be contesting the event as round three of the Malaysian national series,” Gilmour explains. “I’ve no doubt he will be out to try and beat all of the leading 2009 APRC regulars!”

Rally Malaysia is based in the city of Johor, adjacent to the city state of Singapore, which is home-base for Gilmour’s Motor Image Rally Team. Competitors will complete the pre-event reconnaissance next Wednesday and Thursday, while the rally proper will open with a ceremonial start on the Friday evening and comprise two days of special stage action on the Saturday and Sunday.

Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Points (after four rounds)
1, Cody Crocker (Australia) 49pts; 2. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) 36pts; 3 Emma Gilmour (New Zealand), 23pts; 4 Brian Green (NZ) 9 pts; 5 Gaurav Gill (India) 7pts.

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