Emma Gilmour will make up for the disappointment of missing victory in this week's Fiesta Sporting Trophy International Challenge with the excitement of her first competitive drive in a fully-fledged world rally car next weekend.
The 26-year old Dunedin driver has been invited to compete against several stars of the WRC at the Bettega Memorial Rally Challenge, which is part of the Bologna Motor Show in Northern Italy. Taking the wheel of a Focus WRC, Gilmour will become the first woman to contest the event, which is named in honour of Attilio Bettega, a popular Italian world championship driver who lost his life in a rally accident in 1986.
"There will be no opportunity for testing: I'll arrive in Italy and be expected to get into the car and compete, so it really is an exciting adventure into the unknown," Gilmour says. "The closest I've come to experiencing a full WRC car is probably driving my Vantage Team Subaru Impreza WRX in specially-tuned Race to the Sky hillclimb form."
Gilmour's rivals will include WRC regulars Chris Atkinson (Australia, Subaru Impreza WRC), Gigi Galli (Italy, Peugeot 307 WRC), and Tony Gardemeister (Finland, Citroen Xsara WRC).
"That is a pretty high calibre of opponent, and from what I understand the event takes place in a stadium, which is packed with tens of thousands of Italian fans, so the atmosphere is going to be just fantastic."
Gilmour says that confirmation of the one-off drive in Italy has given her a boost after missing out on the winner-takes-all prize Fiesta Sporting Trophy International Challenge in England earlier this week.
"Things actually went pretty well for me, but it was a very tight contest against some really talented European drivers," she says. "The people that were quickest in the challenge shoot-out were those who had been driving their cars all season, whereas others - myself included - had to get behind the wheel of a new machine for the event."
Gilmour says that the one major sacrifice she will be making to contest the Bettega event is likely to be the chance of spending Christmas back at home in New Zealand.
"As you can imagine, flights form Europe are pretty full heading into the festive season, so at this point it seems like I might be in the air on Christmas Day itself. Still, the chance to drive a world rally car on an international event is a bit like Christmas come early, so I'm not about to complain!"