Emma Gilmour has made her mark in international rallying by setting three fastest-in-class stage times on the Finnish round of the world championship.
Rallying in Europe with support from the Dream Drive Scholarship and Castrol, the 26-year old Dunedin driver set her first fastest time in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy category on day one of the 18-20 August event. Day two brought a further pair of fastest times before her Ford Fiesta ST succumbed to an engine problem.
“Awesome fun,” was how Gilmour described the fast gravel stages of the Finnish event, which is one of the most specialized and challenging rallies in the world championship.
“I was delighted with that fastest time on Leg One, she said. “The stage was very similar to those I am used to in New Zealand - quick with a few junctions – and I loved it.”
Gilmour described her two stage wins the next day as even more satisfying, not least because one of them came on the Ouininpohja stage, which is famous in rallying for its many high-speed crests and jumps.
“It’s good to see that on the most famous rally stage in the world I can set a fastest time,” she said. “It was fantastic just having the opportunity to drive that stage, let alone come out with the best time in my class.”
Gilmour beat the Finns in her class on every stage in a loop of stages that included Ouininpohja, even though she and co-drover Claire Mole were regularly catching the car in front. In fact, on two stages they had to pass that car, and had they not lost time doing so their stage times would have been even better.
Along with the local Fiesta Sporting Trophy drivers, the class rivals Gilmour beat through the Finnish stages included Mathieu Biasion, a younger cousin of two-times world champion Miki Biasion, and Alessandro Bettega, whose father was a factory rally driver for Lancia in the 1980s.
While Gilmour’s pace certainly caused her fancied European rivals to take notice, she was disappointed that problems shortly after her first stage win meant she was never in a position to challenge for a top class result.
“There was a fault with the car’s electronic control unit, which meant the engine would not rev properly, and we incurred time penalties having it fixed,” she explained. “Also, with the stages used twice over the day and the Fiesta class running late in the field, the course became very rough in places, and we suffered two punctures.
Gilmour’s final demise may also have been due to the conditions.
“The start of the last stage of the second day was very rough,” she said. I don’t know what caused it for sure, but the engine started to lose power. There were no warning lights but then it just stopped. The sump had been holed and the engine had lost its oil.”
“Even so, competing in Finland has been brilliant,” she added. “Most importantly I have managed to take class wins on stages, which was something that was not so easy to achieve on the German round of the world championship the weekend before.”
Gilmour is flying home immediately after the Finnish event to rejoin the Vantage Subaru Rally Team for this weekend’s Rally of Wairarapa, the penultimate round of the New Zealand championship. She is currently placed fourth in the national series behind reigning champion Richard Mason (Subaru), Sam Murray (Subaru) and Brent Martin (Mitsubishi).
By Andy Stobart